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Private and Public Officials Commit to Improving Africa's Infrastructure


American investors are meeting with African businessmen and government officials (September 27-29th) in the Washington area for the first annual US-Africa Infrastructure Conference. The meeting is exploring the potential and challenges of investing in the sectors of water, energy, transportation and communications technology.

Among those at the conference was Tim Richards of General Electric. He told VOA reporter William Eagle that a conference speaker Thursday morning was Ambassador John Danilovich, the Chief Executive Officer for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) .

Danilovich said that the MCC has several infrastructure projects in Africa, including a $547 million contract in Ghana to establish retention ponds for irrigation, to rehabilitate roads that link rural areas to schools and hospitals and to improve the Lake Volta ferry services. The MCC says the roads will benefit over 120 thousand households, while over 100 thousand people will benefit from the upgrade ferry facilities in one of the country’s poorest regions, the Afram Plains District.

Another MCC contract in Benin aims at improving infrastructure at the Port of Cotonou, an important conduit for trade. Danilovich says that while many projects involve the transportation sectors, he also sees future investment opportunities in the electricity and communication sectors.

Richards says also present at the conference were representatives for the Oracle Corporation. They say their company is working to educate young people in Africa about information technology as part of the NEPAD program called the E-Schools Demonstration Project.

The spokesman for Oracle, Desi Lopez-Fafie, says partnerships between ICT venders and governments are helping to build systems that can better exploit and manage Africa’s wealth. He says an information-driven infrastructure will help Africa integrate into the global economy.

On Tuesday night, participants to the conference discussed the importance of infrastructure investment in Africa. Tim Richards of General Electric says that an opening dinner Wednesday night featured Undersecretary for Policy at the US Department of Transportation, Jeffrey Shane, and the executive head of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Professor Fermino Mucavele. He said the two stressed the importance of regional integration with regard to the development of transportation and other infrastructures.

Richards says the conference ends Friday with a series of workshops and panels looking at the needs and opportunities of Africa’s different regions and sectors. Other plenary sessions will look at regional integration and financing.

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