Photo courtesy of Tanzania Presidential Library
President Obama discusses new 'Power Africa' initiative at the Symbion powerplant in Tanzania

A new technical and financial support program announced by President Obama during a recent trip to South Africa will enable six sub-Saharan countries to generate an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable power.

The $7-billion Power Africa initiative will support, in its first phase over the next five years, renewable-energy projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

In addition, private renewable-energy developers will invest $9 billion for generation of another 8,000 MW over the same period in the region, which is seeking $300 billion to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030.

Speaking in Tanzania on July 1, President Obama said, “We are not just building powerplants ourselves—we're working with the various governments that are involved to think about what are the laws and regulations that are required to sustain it and how do we leverage the private sector to put more money in.”

Funding for the first phase will be mobilized from the U.S. Agency for International Development ($285 million), the Overseas Private Investment Corp. ($1.5 billion), the U.S. Export-Import Bank ($5 billion), the Millennium Challenge Corp. ($1 billion), the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency together ($20 million) and the U.S. African Development Foundation ($2 million).

According to the White House, Power Africa will provide a range of services—including policy and regulatory best practices; pre-feasibility support and capacity building; and long-term financing, insurance, guarantees, credit enhancements and technical assistance—to help the African partners expand their generation capacity and access.

Renewable-energy project developers will invest the $9 billion in a selected mix of renewable-energy technologies, including wind, solar and hydro. Some of the developers that are already on the ground in Africa include Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric; London-based Aldwych International; Lagos, Nigeria-based Heirs Holding; Washington, D.C.-based Symbion Power; Sandton, South Africa-based Harith General Partners; Bihar, India-based Husk Power Systems and the African Finance Corp.

Symbion Power, a 112-MW thermal powerplant in Ubungo, Tanzania, that Obama visited during his trip to Africa, says it will develop at least 1,300 MW worth of projects in Tanzania and Ghana within the five years at a cost of $1.8 billion. The plant generates power from four aero-derivative General Electric gas turbines.

“Symbion aims to be at the forefront of Power Africa with investments in these countries within a five-year time frame,” said Symbion CEO Paul Hinks.

On July 19, Symbion signed another agreement with the Tanzania Electric Supply Co. Ltd. to build, own and operate a 400-MW powerplant in Mtwara.