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American Businesses Engage with Africa
by Lisa Deaderick
US / Africa Energy Ministers Conference
source: Village Power 2000

Habiba Bayi, Manager of Public Relations--Enron International
Photo: Erika Alexander
Tucson, AZ •• Dec. 15, 1999 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• Joint ventures with numerous African countries are undergoing serious consideration at the U.S.-Africa Energy Ministers Conference in Tucson this week.

The Solar Store, specializing in water heaters powered by the sun, had previous contacts with South Africa until a shift in the political climate of the country in 1995 and ’96, said Jerry Samaniego, vice president of the company. His company is currently shipping their products to southern Russia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico. Things are going well with Mexico due to the lack of availability regarding water heaters in the country.

According to Samaniego, a bill is going before the state legislature of Arizona that will offer tax breaks to citizens for building energy efficient homes. Undoubtedly, the subject of energy, new forms of energy conservation and new techniques of how to use available resources has struck The Solar Store as crucial in developing links with a number of nations in Africa.

Ormat, a power technology organization started in 1965 with solar power projects, started doing work with Mali and solar water pumping. The project was a technical success, but an economical failure because of lack of funds available in Mali at the time, said Dan Schochet, vice president of Ormat.

Geothermal power is the new driving project of Ormat and the company’s plans with Africa. It has been working on geothermal power plants for the past 15 years and has recently worked with Ethiopia and Kenya. This particular energy source is impervious to the weather because of its

“Without electricity there will be no economic development anywhere,” said Schochet. There are 17 countries with geothermal developments. According to Schochet, geothermal energy is valuable because it’s indigenous and an almost indefinite supply of fuel because it is coming from the earth. These plants are projected to be simple, reliable, and operated and maintained by local staff from each of the respective countries in Africa, said Schochet.

So far, Ormat has engaged in ventures with places like the Philippines, New Zealand, and Latin America. Africa is a large potential market, but a lack of funds hindered these ventures in the past. Such is no longer the case.

“I would be indulging in puffery if I said it (current investments) helped a great deal, but it does help,” said Schochet.

Solar Cookers International and Sun Ovens International specialize in solar cooking technology. Trips have been made to Kenya and Ghana to promote different collapsible cookers. There are large community size solar ovens that can be used in villages on a large scale that will allow occupants in these villages to turn such acquisitions into a possible business, said Bob Larson, a solar plumbing contractor working with Solar Cookers and Sun Ovens International.

“I think it’s (solar cooking) should be the biggest issue of this conference, but they (the energy ministers) don’t think that because it’s a woman’s issue, not a man’s issue,” said Larson.

This method of solar cooking can be used to help alleviate problems with deforestation, pasteurization of water, and other concerns in these targeted communities.

Enron International, an energy and communications developer, has several working projects in Africa underway. A pipeline with Mozambique and South Africa to provide gas is one such project. On December 6, a power purchase agreement was signed to provide emergency power to Lagos, Nigeria. The agreement was the initial step in the plan to build a power plant with a projected cost of $500 million.

According to Habiba Bayi, manager of public relations for Enron, the company is sponsoring two students from Mozambique who are attending Texas A & M University in its graduate program. The primary goal of this sponsorship is for the students to take back the information they have learned in American universities and use it in their home countries. One of the regulations is that the students cannot stay in the U.S. once their education has been completed.

Lots of deals and contacts are being made at this first-of-its-kind conference, and things look promising for both countries.

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