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Africa has had enough of power failures – Tony Elumelu

Mr. Tony Elumelu
Mr. Tony Elumelu

Keynote address at the 2nd Annual Powering Africa Summit by Tony O. Elumelu, CON

My name is Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings Ltd. It’s a pleasure to be here, with fellow investors, operators, financiers and technocrats, and I thank Andy Herscowitz for the invitation. I am an Africapitalist who believes that the private sector must acknowledge and embrace our role in promoting development, by investing in strategic sectors which yield economic and social dividends.
Through Transcorp Power, Heirs Holdings made a $2.5 billion commitment to deliver 2,000 Megawatts under the Power Africa Initiative. Transcorp is a key player in the Nigerian energy sector. We currently generate about 19% of Nigeria’s total power consumption. And our intent is to generate 25% of total energy consumption. So, where some see only problems in Africa, I see business opportunities in providing solutions to such challenges.
We MUST win the energy challenge because:
• Over 600 million Africans lack access to energy,
• Africa needs 120 million jobs for our growing population but surveys of African businesses repeatedly show that energy costs are over 10 times what it is in the U.S. This dramatically increases the cost of doing business in Africa.
• Power is a cross-cutting issue that has impact on health care delivery, job creation, education, food security, communications and every other sector of development.
• Africa seeks to become an industrial power in the 21st century and we cannot achieve this on a weak power base.
I’m invested in a variety of sectors including financial services, hospitality and real estate, healthcare etc. but every day, my working day starts with a review of the dashboard of the megawatts generated at our Ughelli power plant. And I can tell you that, good or bad, the numbers have an emotional impact on me. Every day. In this final year of his presidency, I want to thank President Obama for not shying away from the tough issue of energy poverty. Instead he has tackled it HEAD ON, and with the astuteness to understand that the conventional development model of government-financed projects will not deliver the much-needed megawatts at the scale required. So he invited the private sector in as partners and stakeholders. Very critically, he involved the African private sector in this initiative. Thank you, Mr. President.
I also want to thank his team that helped to design and implement this trailblazing program, including Ambassador Mike Froman, Gayle Smith, Benjamin Rhodes, Elizabeth Littlefield, Mimi Alemayehou, Raj Shah and not least of all Andy Herscowitz and the hardworking Power Africa team.
Working together through Power Africa, the U.S. government and the private sector have engaged 120 public and private sector partners, and marshalled $43 billion to create 60 million new power connections, using a mix of power solutions. This is going to make a world of difference in Africa. The evidence will be the very visibility of Africa from space.
I want to congratulate Andy and his team for this clear and strategic road map.
I will stress that Power Africa can give us a road map, set targets and provide technical assistance and partners. But it is up to us- partner countries and the private sector- to implement it. It is up to us whether Power Africa is a success or another POWER FAILURE. I can tell you Africa has had enough of power failures of any kind. So we must remain committed and resilient because the enabling environment for this sector on the continent is tough, but IT IS getting better and Africa handsomely rewards the patient investor!
It is not just enough for us to be resilient investors. Access to power is a humanitarian emergency in Africa. Lives are lost and potential extinguished everyday that the power deficit persists. These endless POWER OUTAGES MUST SPARK POWER OUTRAGES! The kind of outrage that ignites the activist in each of us.
How can we not be outraged when the studies show that the POOR PAY THE MOST FOR POWER? This is because they can only buy it in small quantities.
How much is a fair tax on their suffering?
I have taken my POWER OUTRAGE and I am channeling it into Action for change. Hence, not only am I investing in the power sector, I have become an advocate for expanding universal access-to electricity in Africa. I advocated for access-to-energy to become a Sustainable Development Goal and joined the board of the UN Sustainable Energy for ALL Initiative. With my colleagues, Aliko Dangote, Kandeh Yumkella, and Donald Kaberuka, I co-founded the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG), a public private sector partnership, which seeks to elevate and prioritize this issue among regional and global policy makers. I also support President Akin Adesina’s New Deal for Africa’s power transformation under the African Development Bank
Over the last two Congresses, I have engaged in advocacy with U.S. lawmakers to get the Electrify Africa Act enacted. This bill would effectively preserve and expand the Power Africa Initiative well-beyond this Administration by codifying access to-electricity as a U.S. foreign policy priority for Africa.
I want to thank Senators, Bob Corker, Ben Cardin, Jeff Flake and Chris Coons for their leadership in getting this bill passed in the Senate.
You don’t know this, but I was actually on my way to Accra from Lagos when I decided to stop by Washington D.C. to lobby again for the bill and testify on U.S.- Africa trade. But apparently, the House is closed.
So, earlier this week, on behalf of the AELG, Aliko Dangote and myself wrote a letter and op-ed to the U.S. House of Representatives to thank Congressmen Royce and Eliot Engel for their leadership on this issue in the House. The bill comes to the House Floor next week Tuesday. I’m not telling you this to entertain you. You’ve invested in this initiative and I’m asking you to protect your investment and the future of the program. I want you all to leave this place and call all your representatives and the leadership of the House and tell them to Pass This Bill! Africa cannot wait for Power. We need Power Africa, we need a swift and strong reauthorization of OPIC and we need the Electrify Africa Act! So please make that call!
Long live Power Africa, God Bless Africa and God Bless the United States of America!

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