By Ray W. Washburne
In recent years, investment in public infrastructure, and related momentum in the country’s manufacturing and services sectors, has become Uganda’s primary catalyst of current and future economic growth. This has been a positive development for the country. However, greater investments are required to build Uganda’s human capacity and connect the country to external markets in order to position Uganda to harness the opportunities of today’s global economy. Deeper integration will ensure that the country’s expanding manufacturing and services sectors, as well as its agricultural sector, can access the consumers, suppliers, information, and technology that they need from outside markets to boost sustainable growth.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is a U.S. Government Agency that invests in development projects in emerging markets, and we’re committing to helping Uganda and all of Sub-Saharan Africa forge deeper ties with the world.
This week, I’ll be traveling to Uganda as part of my first official tour of Africa and reaffirming our commitment to the continent with the launch of Connect Africa, a new OPIC initiative that aims to further integrate Sub-Saharan Africa into the global trade market. In addition to focusing investment on transportation infrastructure like roads, ports and airports, Connect Africa will invest $1 billion over the next three years in modern connectivity including telecommunications, technology, and value chains to help ensure more locally-produced products can reach global markets.
As the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, OPIC recognizes private sector investment as a powerful tool of job creation and sustainable economic development in emerging markets. Our investments across Africa have been highly impactful. We’ve supported the construction of local power plants and water treatment facilities, and invested in projects which have expanded the accessibility of healthcare, education, and financial services to underserved communities.
Today, more than one-quarter of our global $23 billion portfolio is invested in projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, many of them in Uganda. Our investments in the country have helped expand access to and the use of solar energy systems, provided high-efficiency cookstoves to low- and middle-income populations, and connected people in rural areas of the country with electronic financial services.
U.S. businesses recognize that investing in Uganda represents both an opportunity to address pressing development challenges and a promising business opportunity in an emerging market. Through Connect Africa, OPIC is excited to enhance efforts to help those companies invest.
Just two weeks ago, OPIC committed $100 million in financing to cellular communications company Africell to support the upgrade and expansion of mobile telecommunications networks in Uganda, as well as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
OPIC’s Connect Africa initiative follows several successful U.S. Government initiatives to address longstanding challenges through the mobilization of private capital. Over the past five years, OPIC has supported the U.S. Power Africa Initiative and committed more than $2.4 billion to 20 projects that will expand access to electricity on the continent. In March, OPIC launched the 2X women’s Initiative to mobilize $1 billion to projects to empower the world’s women, who are key drivers to achieving global stability and economic prosperity.
Now, Connect Africa will work to enhance Africa’s role in global trade so that both it and the world can enjoy the exchange of more goods and services, as well as resulting gains in efficiency and competitiveness. In a global economy that is more connected than ever before, sustainable success in Africa depends on increased engagement with the rest of the world.
Mr. Washburne is a top American investor with a long history of heading successful businesses.
A graduate of Southern Methodist University and an adjunct professor at SMU Cox School of Businessis, Mr Ray W. Washburne is also the President and CEO of Charter Holdings, a private real estate investment company based in Dallas.