MCC Acting CEO Jonathan Nash's Remarks at the EnergyNet Powering Africa Summit

MCC Acting CEO Jonathan Nash delivers the keynote address at the Powering Africa Summit in Washington, DC, on March 1, 2018.

Credit: EnergyNet Limited/Joy Asico

Good morning everyone.

It’s a pleasure to be here at the EnergyNet Summit. It’s nice to see such robust representation from government, private sector and civil society from both Africa and the U.S.

It was great to hear from Administrator Green and Chairman Abaribe.

As we all know, Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It will be home to one quarter of the world’s consumers by 2030. But – we are also all aware that – unreliable, inaccessible power is still limiting opportunities for millions of people across the continent.

Strengthening Africa’s energy sector is one of the most important development challenges of our time. But it’s also one of the greatest opportunities.

That’s why, at MCC, we are working to increase access to electricity across Africa to spur economic growth – creating more stable, secure countries with new business opportunities.

Some of you may know of the MCC, but for those who don’t, we are an innovative U.S. Government agency with a singular mission: to reduce poverty through private-sector led economic growth.

Since our founding in 2004, we have invested more than $12 billion in economic growth projects around the globe that are expected to benefit about 175 million people.

We provide large-scale grants – we call them compacts – to our partner countries to fund projects we believe will drive growth, help people lift themselves out of poverty, improve the business climate, and catalyze new investment opportunities.

We employ a transparent, competitive selection process to select our country partners. Our partners must demonstrate a commitment to good governance, investing in their people, and promoting economic freedoms.

And our projects are designed to address constraints to private investment and entrepreneurship that hold a country back from economic growth.

Through our investments, we are opening the door for companies to work in high-growth markets with fewer up-front risks.

Our country scorecard itself is an incentive for countries to improve their investment environments. Countries must pass the MCC scorecard in order to qualify for funding, so many countries make progress on policy indicators – such as reducing corruption and improving the rule of law – before MCC even spends a dollar.

In addition, the private sector can use MCC’s scorecard to evaluate the business environment in a country, and to understand what governments are doing to improve the marketplace for private investment.

MCC decisions are based in data.  So because our analyses show that access to affordable, reliable electricity is a significant constraint to economic growth, many of our projects in Africa are focused in this sector.

And it’s why, along with our U.S. Government partners – including Power Africa, USAID, USTDA, and OPIC – we are working to expand access to electricity to increase economic growth and reduce poverty.

Over the past 13 years, MCC has partnered with 23 countries in Africa. Our investments on the continent – from energy and transportation to water and agriculture – account for 70 percent of our portfolio. And in Africa to date, we’ve invested over 1.5 billion in energy-related projects, in support of the goals of Power Africa.

In addition to large-scale investments in energy infrastructure, MCC also supports partner countries as they undertake regulatory reforms and strengthen energy policy and institutions critical for sustainability and self-reliance.

Let me share a few examples:

In Benin, a female entrepreneur in Cotonou Madame Codjo [Co-jo] shared with us that she could grow her business if she had access to reliable electricity. She owns a business that serves as the link between more than 400 fishing families and Benin’s active retail fish markets.

Our $375 million investment in Benin seeks to expand access to reliable electricity and crowd-in commercial finance. Just a few days ago, we launched an Off-Grid Clean Energy grant facility that will fund – in partnership with the private sector – critical public infrastructure, household solar systems, and mini-grids that will benefit entrepreneurs like Madame Codjo.

The grant facility is accepting project finance applications through May 22. I hope many of the businesses here today consider this investment opportunity. You can find out more information on our website, We are also holding a breakfast focused on our Benin Compact tomorrow, where you can learn more about this opportunity.

We’re also investing in the energy sector in Liberia. Several years ago, we visited the busy port in Monrovia, where over 80 percent of Liberian imports pass through. We heard that the high cost of power from a generator was preventing the port from expanding its capacity for vital goods.

In Ghana, the lack of reliable power has been a barrier to doing business in the country, holding back potential private investment and partnership with businesses.

As part of our nearly $500 million energy-focused investment in Ghana, MCC is supporting the government’s efforts to improve the financial and operational health of the utility by bringing in a competitively selected private sector operator. This operator will invest an additional $500 million to strengthen the distribution network to reduce losses and improve service quality for businesses and households.

MCC investments, along with those of our Power Africa partners, are expected to help catalyze billions in new private investment and help the Government of Ghana better deliver reliable electricity services to its people.

We’re also investing in the energy sector in Liberia. Several years ago, we visited the busy port in Monrovia, where over 80 percent of Liberian imports pass through. We heard that the high cost of power from a generator was preventing the port from expanding its capacity for vital goods.

Through our investment in Liberia, we worked alongside other donors to fund the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant – the country’s single largest power source – to bring additional, more affordable power to Liberian households and businesses.

We are also supporting the government of Liberia’s efforts to create an independent energy regulatory agency as well as develop a training center for electricity sector technicians.

In Malawi, we are investing $350 million to support the government as it works to amend outdated electricity laws, strengthen the operations of its power utility, add distribution capacity, and rehabilitate a hydropower plant.

And in Senegal and Burkina Faso, we are currently developing new compacts that are likely to focus on strengthen the energy sector.

A few weeks ago, we hosted more than 70 businesses and investors at MCC’s offices to hear their feedback on the draft projects under our proposed Senegal compact.

This kind of input is critical – we routinely seek feedback from businesses and the private sector during the development of our compacts to better understand the factors preventing investment.

And outside of Africa, last fall, we signed a compact with Nepal focused on improving the availability of electricity.

This $500 million investment will improve regional energy connectivity with India and includes the construction of about 300 kilometers of high voltage transmission lines.

So for those of you in the private sector who also do work outside of Africa, I encourage you to visit our website to learn about opportunities to work with us across our full energy portfolio.

MCC has developed a strong track record of working with our partner countries to strengthen electricity sectors. And catalyzing private investment for development has been fundamental to our work.

At a time when national budgets and donor resources are stretched, finding new sources of capital for investment in public infrastructure and services is critical.

Governments around the world are looking to private-sector investment, efficiency and expertise to transform critical sectors and to better deliver vital services to their people. At the same time, the private sector and institutional investors are looking to enter high-potential markets.

In all of our programs, we look for opportunities to crowd-in private capital to maximize our impact. Through public-private partnerships, we aim to mobilize the capital, expertise and efficiency of the private sector to deliver faster, better, affordable services and generate more sustainable development outcomes.

The merging of public and private funds to mobilize additional private capital for the public good – often called blended finance – is an important tool in global efforts to reduce poverty.

By addressing barriers to investment and improving market conditions, blended finance helps align returns in development-related investments with market expectations and perceived risks.

By connecting investors to new, underserved markets while expanding access to vital services, blended finance can play a central role in achieving development outcomes.

We believe that blended finance is the future of development. There is great potential for the private sector to contribute expertise and capital to bring about transformational change in Africa’s energy sector.

So for the private sector representatives here today: we want to work with you and have you partner alongside our efforts to spur economic growth.

I’d encourage you to take a look at our procurement, partnership and investment opportunities on the Work with Us page on our website.

MCC is deeply committed to working with our county partner governments, the private sector and civil society to unlock the continent’s economic potential through far-reaching investments in the energy sector.

By strengthening energy sectors and increasing access to electricity to drive economic growth, we are supporting a more stable, secure world with more business and investment opportunities – while at the same time strengthening security and prosperity here at home.

Thank you all very much.