US – AFRICA Infrastructure Conference 2012 | Energy, Transportation, Water, ICT. Foundation for Economic Growth

Posted June 27, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Business ~ 5,684 views



PLENARY I: “Infrastructure in Africa: Solutions for Growing Demands”
In the Opening Plenary, “Infrastructure in Africa: Solutions for Growing Demands,” moderator Ambassador Robert Perry began the discussion by conveying one main fact: Africa’s infrastructure build is happening now. He touched on the enormous presence of demand for infrastructure and how it was needed to provide a base for Africa’s economic growth. Throughout the session, the panelists highlighted catalytic investments in power, transport and other infrastructure to support growth throughout the continent. The panelists included Paul Hinks, President and CEO of Symbion Power; Patrick Fine of the Milleniumm Challenge Corporation; Jay Ireland, CEO of GE Africa; and William Killeen, President and CEO of Acrow Bridges. The panelists shared their motivations for investing in African infrastructure and reviewed practices that are making the continent increasingly more enticing to investors.

Hinks and Killeen both touched on the enormous potential of the power industry in Africa, highlighting projects in transportation, power distribution and ICT. They emphasized how Africa’s infrastructure investment has been bolstered by the continent’s young population, it’s ability to leap frog older ways of doing things and it’s high demand for access to financial services, healthcare, education and information. The panelists also discussed some crucial operational factors to doing business on the continent. Patrick Fine of MCC commented on the importance of regional economic integration, explaining that when countries compete with each other for capital, they dilute the opportunity for all. It is most beneficial for investors to make deals on a large operating scale. Successful trade blocs like COMESA and EAC are attracting more investors because they have harmonized regulations and reduced tariff barriers. Jay Ireland of GE Africa noted that “human capital used to be an export, now it’s an import”. Therefore, a more educated workforce has made infrastructure investments more profitable and efficient. Finally, Mr. Ireland emphasized the importance of treating an infrastructure investment as a project rather than a simple purchase. Making sure the logistics and supply chain are working to their maximum capacity maximizes the benefit for both the investor and the people of the country.

From left: Mr. William Killeen, President & CEO, Acrow Corporation; Mr. Jay Ireland, President, GE Africa; Ambassador Robert Perry, Vice President for International Programs, The Corporate Council on Africa; Mr. Paul Hinks, Founder & CEO, Symbion Power; Mr. Patrick Fine, Vice President-Compact Operations, Millennium Challenge Corporation

PLENARY II: “Procurement and Business Opportunities”
The second plenary session focused on ways for American companies to become involved on the continent. The panel was moderated by Paul Marin, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Marin began the session by emphasizing that procurement in sub-Saharan markets is much less of a challenge than many companies anticipate. He emphasized that many companies present at the conference, including GE, Acrow, Symbion, UPS, Western Union, Procter and Gamble, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft were already seizing the abundant procurement opportunities throughout the continent. He also noted that there were several U.S. and international agencies at the conference with the tools to guide U.S. businesses through the procurement process, including the World Bank, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, USAID and many more.

The panel included David Fulton, the Advisor of Business Liason at the World Bank; Sinnammal Souppaya, Director of Compact Operations at Millennium Challenge Corporation; Ashraf Ayad, Principal Procurement Specialist at the African Development Bank; the Honorable Mike Onolememen, the Minister of Public Works of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Paul Talley, the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Zanbato Group. The panelists highlighted ways to acquire government contracts in Africa, how private-public partnerships are crucial to increased investment, and how American companies can gain prominent standing.

Fulton, Suppaya and Ayad each described their organizations’ procurement process and highlighted specific opportunities for private investment. The panelists also emphasized the strong competition from China that faces U.S. firms when procuring contracts on the continent, particularly when it comes to low-cost financing. They emphasized the importance of “getting what you pay for” to the government officials, noting that discount contracts often yield lower quality results. They also discussed the “perception hangover” that many U.S. companies experience when it comes to Africa. The common narrative among U.S. investors is that African business environments are too daunting, and that establishing operations will be too hard, too dangerous or too risky. One panelist dispelled these misconceptions by claiming that the real risk presented by African markets was not being there, and that Africa yields higher returns on FDI than anywhere else in the world. They concluded the session with a message of “don’t be late”, a reoccurring theme throughout the conference.

From left: Mr. Ashraf Ayad Hussein, Principal Procurement Specialist, African Development Bank; Ms. Sinnammal Souppaya, Director, Department of Compact Operations, Millennium Challenge Corporation; Mr. David Fulton, Advisor & Director of Business Liaison, Office of the U.S. Executive Director, The World Bank, Mr. Paul Marin, Regional Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. Trade and Development Agency; Mr. Paul Talley, President, Chief Operating Officer, Zanbato Group LLC; The Honorable Mike Onolememen, Minister of Works, The Federal Republic of Nigeria

PLENARY III: “Financing Your Infrastructure Projects”
This session focused on the financing needs for infrastructure on the African continent. The session was moderated by Ms. Carolyn Campbell, Managing Director of Emerging Capital Partners. Ms. Campbell started the session by explaining just how “under-banked” Africa is. Financing needs for infrastructure projects far exceed resources from governments, domestic savings and development financial institutions. She explained how this is a perfect opportunity for the private sector to fill the funding gap and reap very high returns on their investments. She emphasized how there are increasing numbers of bankable deals that are becoming accessible to global capital. The panelists then discussed which projects are suitable for the American private sector, and some best practices for financing these projects. The panel included Dr. Sam Cho, the Chief of Private Sector Development for UNECA; Alain Ebobisse, the Principal Investment Officer of the International Finance Corporation; Phillips Lee, the Head of Export Finance for Societe Generale; and Bobby Pittman, Vice President of Infrastructure for Kupanda Capital.

Ebobisse began the conversation by highlighting specific areas where private sector financing is most useful. He explained that the construction of airports, ports, rail and power are all very suitable to private-sector investors seeking recurring cash flows from long-dated assets. Dr. Cho continued by discussing the importance of bolstering Africa’s private sector through American financing. He emphasized that when engaging in FDI on the continent, it is important to remember that the sectors that need to be sustained are still in their infant stages. He also acknowledged how to maximize the spillover effects of your investment and how to avoid problems with PPP implementation. Phillip Lee of Societe General built on these remarks, reminding the audience that financing these deals can take years to complete, and it can be very helpful to work with groups such as the Export-Import Bank to help the process along. Bobby Pittman of Kupanda Capital rounded out the conversation by explaining some of the projects that he has seen work, namely the construction of ports. He also explained future opportunities in road construction and other areas that could be very profitable for investors, and vitally important to African economies.

From left: Mr. Phillips Lee, Head of Export Finance USA, Societe Generale; Mr. Bobby Pittman, Kupanda Capital, Former Vice President of Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration at the African Development Bank; Ms. Carolyn Campbell, Managing Director, General Counsel and Founding Member, Emerging Capital Partners; Dr. Sam Cho, Chief of Private Sector Development, UNECA; Mr. Alain Ebobisse, Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation

PLENARY IV/CLOSING LUNCHEON: “The Way Forward-Vision 2020 and Beyond”
To wrap the conference up, Melissa Cook, Founder and Managing Director of African Sunrise Partners LLC delivered a summary of the main themes of the conference as well as some new insights on the presence of such a large demand for infrastructure and the American capacity to invest in it.

To highlight the American desire to invest in the continent, Stephen Hayes, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, noted in his concluding remarks, “I’m glad China is paving the roads in Africa that American companies will be using in a few years.” The closing panel then emphasized the tremendous opportunities to invest on the continent and warned American companies that Africa will not sit around to wait – now is the time to invest before someone else takes the opportunity. The panel included H.E. Honorable Robert K. Sichinga, the Minister of Commerce, Trade, and Industry of Zambia, Honorable Hassan Ali Joho, the Minister of Transportation of Kenya and Mr. Guy M’Bengue, CEO of APEX-CI. The message to American investors at “The Way Forward-Vision 2020 and Beyond” was clear: don’t be late for the party.

The most spirited remarks of the panel came from Sichinga, who delivered a rousing presentation emphasizing the tremendous opportunity that the continent presented. He claimed that while “the U.S. has the resources necessary to spur development, they simply do not know enough about Africa”. He stressed the need for increased dialogue so that “U.S. companies can realize that investing in Africa will do well for their own survival”. Sichinga also criticized the stereotypes of the continent as inaccurate and outdated, noting that the global economic crisis did not have as big of an impact on the continent as on other parts of the world. He concluded his remarks saying “We may not have the dollars, but we have the wealth…we are not asking for aid, we are asking for partnerships.”

From left: Mr. Stephen Hayes, President & CEO, The Corporate Council on Africa; The Honorable Robert Sichinga, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Republic of Zambia; Mr. Witney Schneidman, President, Schneidman & Associates International; The Honorable Hassan Ali Joho, Assistant Minister of Transport, Republic of Kenya; Mr. Guy M’Bengue, CEO, APEX-CI

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

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