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Africa Regional Media Hub

Telephonic Conference Call with Deputy Assistant Secretary William Fitzgerald on African Economic Growth, Investment and Development

22 February 2012

Transcript below.

Watch video of the conference call

Media Note:  Secretary Clinton to Host Global Business Conference:  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/02/184194.htm

Speaker Bio:

Deputy Assistant Secretary Bill Fitzgerald

William Fitzgerald serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs overseeing policy and operations at all U.S. missions in West Africa as well as supervising the Bureau’s economic and commercial efforts on the continent.  From 2006-2009, Fitzgerald served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration.  His regional portfolio included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.  He oversaw the annual spending of more than $500 million of refugee and other humanitarian assistance to those regions. 

From 2003-2006, Fitzgerald was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda.  During his final year, he served as chargé d’affaires during the controversial 2006 elections.  A 22-year veteran of the Foreign Service, Fitzgerald has also served at other African posts – Togo, Mali, and Zambia – as well as tours in Mexico and Ecuador. 

Before he joined the Foreign Service in 1988, Fitzgerald worked as a reporter and editor for United Press International and the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.  He is a graduate of the University of Chicago.

____

Transcript begins:

MR. CUSTIN:  Good morning, everyone.  I’d like to alert our participants overseas that we’re starting the program now.  And I’d like to welcome our guest, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs William Fitzgerald.  He’s going to be talking about the role of the U.S. Government in promoting economic growth in Africa.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Thanks very much, Dick.  And it’s a great pleasure for me to be here.  I’m just back from a trade mission that we just finished up in West Africa.  It was a two-week trade mission and it really underscores precisely what the U.S. Government, under – and especially the State Department, under Secretary Clinton – is trying to accomplish, which is to boost American private sector, sometimes public-private, but private sector activities around the world, but certainly in Africa as well.  And I’ll touch on that a little bit. 

I think we understand from what we’ve seen in the growth rates in Africa that it is a growing – it’s of growing importance to American companies to work on the African continent, to become part of what are some of the highest growth rates around the world.  We’ve seen more and more American companies reach out.  I think just in the past four years, at least up till 2010, you saw almost a doubling of U.S. foreign direct investment in Africa, up from about $14 million in 2006 to nearly $25 billion in 2010.  We’ve seen Wal-Mart moving into a South African market.  We’ve seen other energy companies as what appears to be an oil boon in West Africa as American companies take part in that.

It’s an exciting time to be in Africa.  In the two weeks that we were in Africa on the trade mission – again, the trade mission focused on power, which has been identified as a key constraint for so many African countries.  I’ll describe some of the countries.  The four countries that we visited on the trade mission – my boss, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, accompanied the trade mission of eight U.S. companies to Mozambique and Tanzania.  They met with high-ranking officials of government.  They met with American chambers of commerce.  They met with private sector businessmen and women in Mozambique and Tanzania.  And they had some really, really interesting discussions, and I can give you some of what we’ve found out already. 

The other two countries were Nigeria and Ghana, and I was the co-lead of the trade mission in those two countries, and it was particularly exciting.  West Africa is my neck of the woods for political reasons, but – and I cover commerce and economics across the continent writ large, but it was particularly exciting in West Africa, especially in the power sector.  Nigeria has – produces about 3,900 megawatts for power, which is roughly the equivalent of the city of Brussels.  So it’s grossly underpowered for the size of the country, for the population. Of course, it’s the largest country in Africa.  And some cities, it’s astonishing that they can get by with the power that they have.

So what was particularly interesting about Nigeria is the Nigerian Government is actively trying to privatize key power plants as well as distribution networks.  And that was right up our alley.  Some of the companies that were on the trade mission have been longtime partners and longtime – have been active for a long time on the African continent.  I’m thinking of Chevron, General Electric.  Others have long experience in working in Africa, but they’re not quite the household names that maybe GE and Chevron are.  Symbion Power, which is currently operating in Tanzania but hopes to move over to West Africa; Energy International, in fact, has never worked in Africa.  It’s primarily – it’s based in Miami, and they’ve worked on power solutions in Latin America for the past 25 years.  But they’ve even come up and were very interested in some of the activities and some of the possibilities, the opportunities that were open to them.  Caterpillar was also there, the Corporate Council on Africa, which was the co-lead for the delegation.  So we had a number of companies that were very interested. 

And I have to tell you that the African governments, certainly the Ghanaian Government and the Nigerian Government, were very interested in the American trade mission.  There is – there are plans to privatize certain areas and power plants within the Nigerian system.  Some of the companies, Symbion in particular, have partners now in Nigeria that they were able to sign up while they were there and are interested in bidding on, in particular, distribution networks, but I think they’re also very interested in the power plants. 

GE CEO Jeff Immelt preceded our trade mission but also has expressed his interest to President Goodluck Jonathan on energy and the opportunities that it afforded.  3,900 megawatts is a woefully small amount, and the Nigerian Government realizes to promote, certainly to diversify the economy, to bring the manufacturers back online, they need to boost power.

That’s pretty much where we are.  I can tell you that trade – our trade with Africa in 2010 was about $83 billion.  The European Union is the – was the largest trader in 2010 with approximately $150 billion, and China had approximately $90 billion worth of trade. 

I’m happy to field your questions.  Again, the trade mission gave us a great opportunity to not only meet with government officials but also the private sector and that there was a lot of – frankly, America is a good brand name in Africa.  And Africans have worked with other countries and other companies before, but there was definitely a sense that they wanted the quality that comes with American products.  But I’m happy to – Dick, if you want to –

MR. CUSTIN:  That sounds great.  Thank you very much, Bill.  And I want to mention that we’re joined today by our sister office in New York, the Foreign Press Center there.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Great. 

MR. CUSTIN:  There may be some journalists there who want to ask questions. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Super.

MR. CUSTIN:  And we’re also joined by my colleague, Carrie Denver, in South Africa, who’s at the South African hub, the African hub, and we are going to be taking questions there as well.  We’ll start here with a couple questions, then go to New York, and then to South Africa.  And we’ll start with Adam. 

QUESTION:  Hello.  [Adam Ouologuem, Africa Sun Times, Mali].  Nice seeing you again.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Hello.  How are you?

QUESTION:  Fine.  Thank you.  We’re turning 50 this year.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Oh, bravo. 

QUESTION:  You and I. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  I know.  I’ve already turned though.  I don't want to talk about it anymore.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Yeah.  I was wondering why the United States Government decided only now to travel abroad to a different area of Africa with U.S. business people, corporate councils, Chevron, and all of those companies. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  They tell me this was the first time ever.  Why now?

MR. FITZGERALD:  No, no, no.  I’m sorry if I misspoke.  Chevron’s been active on the continent for 50 years. 

QUESTION:  No, no, no.  To have you, the U.S. –

MR. FITZGERALD:  To have a trade mission?

QUESTION:  Yes.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, remember the AGOA conference of last year, which was in Lusaka, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which, in fact, had a private sector component --

QUESTION:  Outside AGOA, just to travel with the corporate to Africa, because India, China has been doing that forever. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, we did that when we went to (inaudible.)  Right.  Well, that’s true.  And --

QUESTION:  Why now? 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, we have --

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) be more aggressive now?

MR. FITZGERALD:  There have been – I’d share with you that this is the first time that the State Department, the Africa Bureau, is because it’s a need that has – that is missing.  And we felt that we could very easily fulfill that need.  It was an exciting thing to do, and I think we’ll do more of it in the future.  I mean, the outpouring of interest and supports on the parts of the African governments – you’re probably right, probably took us too long to decide to do this.  But we will be active participants with the private sector in the future.  But trade missions have gone on throughout the years.  The difference is that this was led by the State Department Africa Bureau.

Yes.

MR. CUSTIN:  Williams.

QUESTION:  Yeah.   Thank you very much. Williams Ekanem is my name, from [Business World,] Nigeria.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Nice to meet you.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Two quick questions.  One you talked of high interest level from the West African governments.  Now how about the interest level with the eight U.S. companies?  Is it – how will you rate it?  Are they really interested?  That’s number one.  Then number two, besides the delegation on commerce that you led, I’m aware you were there in Nigeria about some weeks earlier --

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.  A couple of weeks earlier.

QUESTION:  For the BNC, Bi-National Commission, and strategic meeting on security.

MR. FITZGERALD:  That’s correct.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Now you are very much aware of the Boko Haram terrorist acts.  With this going on every day, every – almost everywhere in the country --

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yes.

QUESTION:  -- do you foresee this interest being graduated from may interest to maybe investment by these U.S. companies who went to it? 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Okay.  I can answer that in a couple of ways.  I’d have to say that traveling with the trade mission was very interesting and a lot less difficult of an issue than the ongoing security situation in Nigeria.  We put that question, frankly, to all eight companies during a briefing before we headed out.  And they said, “Look, we’re used to working in tough places.”  I mean, Energy International, which is only now beginning to start to take an interest in Africa, they’ve been operating in Colombia for 25 years.  So for them to talk about conflict or insecure environments, although it’s a fairly small company, they’re used to it. 

All of these countries are used to working in difficult situations.  Chevron’s been down in the Delta, where we’ve – in Nigeria alone, where – which has been a site of great insecurity and continues to be.  There’s still kidnappings.  So by and large, these eight companies have either worked in Africa or have worked in other places around the world where they are – I don’t know if anyone gets comfortable working in an insecure environment, but they’re used to it, and it doesn’t pose any great challenge to them.

I’d also say Energy International – there was great outpouring on the part of the private sector.  We had an opportunity to meet with the wealthiest man in Africa, Alhaji Dangote, when we were in Lagos.  And Energy International may be doing a deal with Dangote in providing servicing of Mack Trucks, American trucks, in Lagos, which would be a fabulous opportunity for them.  Apparently, the truck manufacturer doesn’t want to set up a plant, but Energy International is in a perfect spot to be able to do that. 

MR. CUSTIN:  We’re going to switch now to our sister office in New York, Foreign Press Center in New York.  Go ahead, please.  Just give your name and your news organization. 

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  My name is Olalu Akande for [Nigeria] Newswire and The Guardian, [Nigeria].  I’m just going to follow up on Williams’ question, and I have two dimensions to it.  First, is the American Government satisfied with the management of the security situation, especially the Boka Haram, which must certainly be an issue, even if the companies think they can handle it?  I imagine that it must be an issue for the U.S. Government also.  So I’d like to know, is the U.S. Government satisfied with the way the Nigerian Government is managing the Boka Haram situation, which like Williams said, happens almost every day? 

Now, my second question is do you have, in more concrete terms, what the trade mission may have accomplished or is expected to accomplish in terms of whether, for instance, Chevron is going to be getting involved in the power privatization or GE?  Do we have any kind of specific commitment that we are reached between the Americans and the Nigerian side from this track?  Thank you. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Okay.  On the second question, as far as results, yeah, I can give you some basic results.  But I have to be honest with you, that it’s a power mission, and power projects, by their nature, take enormous sums of capital and, frankly, frequently take two, three, four, five years to come to fruition.  Yes, there were expressions of interest on the parts of governments, and there were expressions of interest on parts of the eight companies.  Some of the – we had – there were advanced discussions, for instance, with two U.S. participants with the Ghanaian Government for the supply of liquid natural gas and liquid natural gas regasification facilities.  And that’s important because, while there is a pipeline being built from the Jubilee field to come on shore, the truth is that’s going to take at least a year or two.  So in the meantime, the idea is to use these vessels to be able to tap into the gas reserves that are found in Jubilee and bring them onshore faster and then provide them to the plants that could generate electricity with those.

There is also other projects that are going on.  Again, to – the bidding process on the privatization of Nigeria’s energy facilities, power plants, has been pushed back to June.  And at that point, all the applications are due in June for both the distribution networks as well as the seven or eight or ten power plants.  Applications are due in June.  We will probably get the final results in October.  And from that point, rehabilitation – a contract will be struck and rehabilitation of those plants would commence.  Again, there’s a long lead time on a lot of power projects.

I can tell you AES, which is based over here in Arlington, Virginia, has a power barge, which generates approximately 150 megawatts in Lagos.  They are pushing to expand that.  And there are other companies that are considering building more power plants. 

Yes.

MR. CUSTIN:  I just want to say that I’m going to take one more question from here, and then we’re going to go to the hub in Pretoria.  But I’d like to remind the callers in Africa that if they want to join the question queue they should press *1.  So we’ll take one question here, and then we’ll go to South Africa.

Other questions?  John.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My name is John Lyndon and I’m working for Africa Number 1 and Les Temps d’Afrique, Cameroon..I’m originally from Cameroon, so I’m going to focus my question on this country.  Are you planning any visit to Cameroon any time soon?  And why American company are not very attracted to Cameroon?  There is one company there named AES-Sonel, which in the U.S. is not such a big company as they try to pretend in Cameroon.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Right. 

QUESTION:  And there is enough problem there, a lot of problem, regarding how this company is performing over there.  Their electricity is too high and they don’t --

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.  Their (inaudible) are too high.

QUESTION:  And they don’t make enough investment.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  So talking about American company going to Africa --

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- for me it’s like they are just going there to do – to make money, not to really to offer the savings that you’re supposed to offer to African countries and particularly to Cameroon.  Thank you. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, what I’d say is, first off, we have an Embassy in Cameroon.  And their economic officers, occasionally visits from commercial offices – they are there to represent American business and to find opportunities for American business.  Now, let’s be honest.  I mean, the American companies that are going to invest in Africa, they need to make a reasonable rate of return.  They’re not doing it for development.  I mean, obviously, the satisfied customer is going to lead to increased usage and that sort of thing.

AES is, in fact, a very large company in the United States, and it controls – my understanding is it does run the distribution network and perhaps a power plant or two.  I’m not sure on the power plant side.  If you have specific grievances with AES, I mean, certainly your government should be addressing those with AES directly. 

As far as our going there, I don’t have specific plans, but we do plan on at least another trade mission, not necessarily on power but perhaps on road infrastructure and – or even in the health sector or perhaps in telecommunications.  We hope to be doing these trade missions approximately every eight to ten months to the African continent.

MR. CUSTIN:  We’re now going to switch to my colleague Carrie Denver in South Africa.  She’s standing by with some callers there.  Carrie, are you there?

MS. DENVER:  Yes.  Thank you so much, Dick.  We have callers from Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, and we’re going to start with a first question from our Embassy in Accra, Ghana. 

QUESTION:  Hello?

MS. DENVER:  Nicole (ph) your line is open.

QUESTION:  Okay.  My name is Ekow Quandzie, Ghanabusinessnews.com, Ghana Yeah.  I just want to find out, the U.S. (inaudible) question (inaudible) Ghana as far as the trade (inaudible).  The other problem with concerns with the boundary from – with Ghana and Ivory Coast, that if the boundary issue is not solved between Ghana and Ivory Coast, it’s likely that it’s going to lose (inaudible).  And the U.S. – I know that protects U.S. companies, so I just want to ask what are the reasons that – how is the U.S. going to solve this issue?  Thank you.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Thank you very much for the question.  It sort of borders – it delves into the political aspects of the Ghana - Cote d’Ivoire border commission, which is examining it right now.  I’ll be perfectly honest with you:  Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have set up a commission to work out the details of how the maritime border will be demarcated.  It’s up to for the Ghanaian Government – it’s up to the Ghanaian Government and the Ivoirian Government to solve this problem.  The United States has, as we say, no dog in the fight. 

Obviously, Kosmos is very interested, as are other American oil companies, if in fact – if perhaps the border splits, which does actually transect the Jubilee oil field – the very large oil field – we are very interested to find out the results.  We’re not sure what the timeline is to make a decision between the two countries, but I know that President Ouattara and President Mills have met and discussed this and given the work over to a commission between the two countries to try and solve it in an equitable way. 

MR. CUSTIN:  Okay.  Carrie, next question.

Carrie, are you there?

MS. DENVER:  Nigeria.  (Inaudible.)  Sorry, the next question is from Maram Mazen from Abuja, Nigeria with Bloomberg.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I was wondering (inaudible) obstacles (inaudible) companies (inaudible) and if you could also mention (inaudible) companies (inaudible).

MR. CUSTIN:  Your line is really bad.  So if you could make your question brief and slow, we’ll – we might be able to get it.

Could you repeat your question?

QUESTION:  The last question?  I (inaudible) the companies (inaudible).  

MR. CUSTIN:  I’m sorry.  We’re going to have to interrupt you there because we can’t understand the question.  But I think --

MR. FITZGERALD:  I can jump in with some interesting things that we learned when we were on the trip, both in Nigeria and Ghana.  Symbion Gas – Symbion Power is very active already in Tanzania.  One of the projects they have – one of the programs they have really captured the interest of the energy ministers in both Nigeria and Ghana.  It’s for an off-the-grid biofuel, in effect a renewable resource.  But what was so exciting about it is, first of all, it’s off the grid, so you can use it in rural areas.  In fact, it’s designed for rural areas, where you grow bamboo or sugar cane to feed the biofuel power plant to provide electricity for the first time to some of the places, the more remote places.  So it fits that bill. 

But what’s so exciting about it is you need people to grow the sugar cane or the bamboo.  And in the case of Tanzania, where they’re doing it already, they’re covering an area about 3,000 hectares, or 3,000 – a region that has never had power before – but they’re able to hire a thousand people in this remote area to grow the sugar cane, to grow the bamboo that you feed the biofuel power plant.  So it has that double whammy of not only providing electricity – because it’s essential to get electricity out if we’re going to see the gains in developments that – and growth – continued growth in Africa – but also the employment possibilities for an area that is basically subsistence farmers is fabulous – very, very interested.

And I’d follow that up by saying the Ghanaian parliament just recently passed a bill requiring that 10 percent – in the future, at a future date, 10 percent of the power that Ghana uses, 10 percent of that power has to come from renewable resources: small dams, solar projects, wind power, that sort of thing.  Currently, according to the energy minister there, they’re only getting about .1 or .2 percent of their power from renewable resources.  So that’s a sector that’s very, very likely to grow and grow fast. 

MR. CUSTIN:  And Carrie, any other questions from South Africa?  We apologize for the quality of that last line. 

MS. DENVER:  Yes, we do.  We have another question from our Embassy in Accra, Ghana. 

QUESTION:  Hello?

MS. DENVER:  (Inaudible), your line is open.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Okay.  My name is Esther from the Daily Guide, Ghana.  And I would like to find out, Ghana just entered the MC Account for this last week, February 15th, which was a very big project from the U.S. Government to Ghana.  I would like to find out from the U.S. Government, which other project area is it interested in to help Ghana out. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, currently – yes, they’ve just completed the first compact.  They are – the board needs to meet to discuss and review the possibility of a second compact, which does seem likely but, nevertheless, it still needs to be approved by the board.  I believe the constraints to growth are, in fact, that:  power.  And that will very likely be the focus of the second compact. 

MR. CUSTIN:  Okay.  Carrie, thank you very much.  We’re going to return here to Washington. 

MS. DENVER:  Thank you. 

MR. CUSTIN:  And Ben, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My name is Ben Bangoura, editor of (inaudible) Conakry.com and a Radio (inaudible) International, [Guinea].  In your introduction earlier, you mentioned that the trade investment volume for U.S. in Africa of then that 83 billion --

MR. FITZGERALD:  In 2010, it was approximately $83 billion.

QUESTION:  In 2010.  Yeah, that’s the lowest compared to that of China, 93, and 154 European Union. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Right. 

QUESTION:  So I was wondering what has the U.S. investment and trade policy been in Africa, and how does this differ from China, which is, I guess, is your main competitor on the continent?  That’s my first question.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Okay.  Well, if I can react very quickly and very straightforwardly, what the United States offers – and I think African governments – don’t underestimate African governments.  Sure, there are cheaper projects out there, but we provide the technology transfer.  We provide the capacity building.  So when you build a road, three years later, when it begins to deteriorate, the companies – the locals know how to rebuild that road.  They don’t need us to come back in.  No, if there’s a level playing field, and we’re competing fair and square with a European Union company or with a Chinese company, frankly, I have no doubt that American company will win.

QUESTION:  Okay.  My second question has to do with Guinea.  With the new government in place, Guinea is increasingly hopeful for foreign investments, and we have seen emerging countries like China, India, and Brazil --

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.  Brazil as well.

QUESTION:  Brazil as well, but with little with United States.  Do you have any plan in the future to boost your presence there?

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, I think that what this trade mission should tell all of you is the United States is ready to do business in Africa in a much bigger way.  Alcoa has been in Guinea for 30, 40 years.  There is talk, perhaps, of expanding their operations there.  We would obviously support that.  Power is also a key area for Guinea, as well as the distribution network.  Caterpillar has been active in the mining sector in Guinea for many, many years.  Again, not the Caterpillar that moves earth, but rather the Caterpillar that provides generators and other power-producing equipment, because many of those mines are in remote areas, they’re off-grid, so you need some sort of generator to provide power.  Caterpillar is there.  Caterpillar is in many other African countries.

MR. CUSTIN:  We’ll take one more question here, then we’ll go to New York, and one more round in South Africa.  So any –

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) question. 

MR. CUSTIN:  Well, is there anyone else who’d like to ask a question from --

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah. Back in the left.

MR. CUSTIN:  Yeah.  Back there, please.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Good morning.  Well, my question is – Dagmar Benesova, World Business Press Online, [Slovakia].  Well, my question is, do you consider also implementing some rules or law enforcement for companies operating in Africa?  As it is now, many are implementing double standards.  For example, in environmental protection, they are behaving environmentally friendly in the first world, but not so responsible in Africa. 

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.  Right.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, I would talk about a number of laws, first off.  In fact, the first one is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which other countries don’t necessarily have to subscribe to, which prohibits, under the penalty of federal law, bribery, corruption, influence, peddling in a foreign country with a foreign government or with anyone in a foreign area who has a role to play in the decision of whether an American business is allowed.  That is a very strict rule.  It is observed 99 percent of the time.  There are a great many – and it – and frankly, it’s tough.  Sometimes we compete with countries that don’t have such strict standards of comportment and behavior.  So there’s that.

On the environmental things, the companies that we met with and were traveling with us told us that they have met and – for instance, AEF, the power barge, they have met and exceeded Nigerian environmental standards, reaching effectively the world standard or the American standard.  So, yes, I’m sure that there are companies out there that may be violating environmental standards.  At the end of the day, I think that comes back to hurt them, and I think they realize that.  So, again, it’s very important for us to uphold environmental standards, not only in the United States by these companies, but also overseas.

MR. CUSTIN:  We’ll go to New York next, but I’ll like to remind our callers in South Africa to press *1 if they want to get into the question queue.  New York, go ahead, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  [Olalu Akande, The Guardian, Nigeria.]  I thought I should remind Mr. Fitzgerald about the second question, whether the United States is satisfied about how the Nigerian Government is managing the Boko Haram security situation.  I know – so – whether you have any specifics regarding Chevron and GE that came out of this trade mission.  Is Chevron and GE planning any specific program or projects in the power sector?

MR. FITZGERALD:  Well, as far as how the Nigerian Government is handling the difficulties with Boko Haram, the security situation in the north, we’ve made our position clear that we deplore violence across the board, not only the terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by Boko Haram and its insurgents, but also the heavy-handed – occasionally heavy-handed response on the part of the Nigerian Government. 

As far as Chevron – Chevron has been working and has had facilities in Nigeria for more than 50 years.  I think it’s fair to say if you look that they’ve signed contracts and have a deal – are dealing with the Liberian Government for blocks offshore of Liberia, and I think they will likely – again, what is especially newsworthy about this trip on the power sector and energy is the fact that West Africa – all of a sudden, you have American companies, French companies, international companies who’ve suddenly started signing contracts with Sierra Leone, with Guinea, with Liberia, with Cote d’Ivoire, with Ghana, and still more with Nigeria offshore.  You have what in effect could be a transformational flow of new oil, new petroleum that – in West Africa.  So Chevron, yes, has signed a contract with Liberia, but there are many other countries that are signing contracts with the other states.  It’s – this – we remain to see precisely how much oil there is and – or natural gas, but it’s in a very exciting time, certainly if you’re in the oil industry in West Africa. 

MR. CUSTIN:  We’ll switch back to South Africa now where we have time for one question.  Carrie?

MS. DENVER:  Thank you.  We have one more question from our Embassy in Ghana.

QUESTION:  Okay. 

MS. DENVER:  (Inaudible), your line is open.

QUESTION:  Okay.  This is Esther Awuah from [the Daily Guide,] Ghana.  I’d like to find out from Mr. Fitzgerald (inaudible) visit Ghana last week.  I’d like to find out his (inaudible) or view about Ghana’s energy sector.

MR. FITZGERALD:  I think Ghana’s – thank you.  That’s a very nice question to ask.  I think Ghana’s energy sector is poised to take off in a big way.  Again, the energy sector is difficult.  It’s one thing to pump the oil out of the Jubilee field and bring the gas.  To bring the gas in will require, again, these LNG ships, most likely if we can work that out.  A gas line is going to take two or three years. 

But I think that – I mean, just being in Accra, there’s a palpable sense of opportunity for Ghana, a palpable sense that not only in the oil sector and the energy sector, but all of these ancillary companies and business that feed upon – the number of hotels that are increasing, at least since the last time I’ve been in Ghana, three or fourfold.  It’s really – it’s an exciting time to be in the energy sector in Ghana, and I think what you’re seeing is very much of a commitment on the part of Ghanaian Government to embrace private sector companies to come in and do the work.  You’re going to see employment levels increasing and reaching record heights.  And I think, part and parcel of that, you will also see education improving, health sector clinics improving.  It’s just a very exciting time to be in Ghana.

MR. CUSTIN:  Okay.  Thank you very much, Carrie, in South Africa and callers in and across Africa.  We’re going to take one more question here in Washington.  Anyone not asked a question yet?  No?  Okay.  Ben.

QUESTION:  Ben again?  What about me?  [Adam Ouologuem, Africa Sun Times, Mali].

MR. CUSTIN:  (Laughter.)  Hold on.  Hold on.  You got two questions earlier.  He’s getting his --

QUESTION:  Yeah, please.  [Ben Bangoura, editor of (inaudible) Conakry.com and a Radio (inaudible) International, Guinea].  I want to follow up with the --

MR. FITZGERALD:  That’s what happens when you turn 50.

QUESTION:  I want to follow up on the first question you answered with regard to the investment policy there.  Do you think your investment policy which is – which goes hand-in-hand with political reforms is hurting a little bit your trade in Africa?  And --

MR. FITZGERALD:  I’m not sure I follow. 

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Could you explain that a little bit more?  You’re saying that we --

QUESTION:  Yes, sir.  Yeah, yeah.  Your investment and your trade policy are – has to do with political reforms.  You have to hold election; you have to do some reforms.

MR. FITZGERALD:  That’s not – Ben, that’s not entirely true.  But on the private sector, yes, some countries in Africa are off-limits, but that’s because of UN embargos and things like that.  The United States does not – granted, these four countries are among the bright shining stars.  Many have held successive democratic elections.  That’s an important thing.  But at the same time, there are countries out there who don’t necessarily meet democratic criteria, human rights criteria.  And American companies, if they wish to, are allowed to go into those countries to do business.

MR. CUSTIN:  Okay.  And one quick question.  Four down, sir.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I saw that (inaudible).  Yeah.  August 11th --   

MR. CUSTIN:  But it has to be quick.  It has to be quick.

QUESTION:  August 11 is still far away.

MR. CUSTIN:  Quick.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Oh, it is very far away.

QUESTION:  So it’s close to yours, too.

MR. FITZGERALD:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  You know what?  You did not mention Mali, sir.  I become jealous when those brothers of Nigeria --

MR. FITZGERALD:  I’m not sure what you mean. 

[French questions]

MR. CUSTIN:  Sorry, this needs to be in English for the purposes of the transcript.

QUESTION:  You know what?  I forgot that.  I mean, I’m American.

MR. CUSTIN:  There you go.

QUESTION:  (Laughter.)  Send me back to Mali.  No.  I was wondering why you did not mention Mali.  We have gold.  Even though we did not start exploiting the oil yet, in Mali, we have gold, we have cotton, and we have – I don’t know – uranium, magnesium, lot of things.  Why are you not in Mali yet?  During your next trip, do you plan to go to some of those Francophone Africa [French continues]

MR. FITZGERALD:  No, listen.  There is – the reason we went to these countries is because, in all four countries, power was seen as the major constraint.  This was a power mission.  While we would – we’re certainly going to be visiting – in fact, we did travel to at least one Lusiphone country, Mozambique.  Yes, we’re going to open it up in – to Francophone countries in the future, absolutely.  As far as Mali, it didn’t really reach the level as far as where we’re going in the power sector to be included on this trip.  I look forward – I lived in Mali for three years, so I look forward to going back. 

MR. CUSTIN:  Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Fitzgerald.  We appreciate your being here, and thank you for joining us today.  That concludes our event.

 

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