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Yesterday, I spoke at the 2008 U.S.-Africa Infrastructure Conference, Connecting the Continent, organized by the Corporate Council on Africa. I spoke about the infrastructure constraints faced by the private sector in Africa, particuarly the lack of a reliable supply of electricity. I pointed to the scope for American businesses to solve these problems -- the off-grid solar and other renewable energy technologies being developed in California, Nevada and elsewhere are IDEAL for the sparsely distributed populations of Africa, where access to energy from a public grid will likely never be achieved beyond the largest cities. But I was preaching to the choir. The level of enthusiasm for renewable energy to solve Africa's power crisis was tremendous, as were the number of businesses at the conference marketing their products in this area. Among these was PureRay Corporation, whose mission is to replace unsafe kerosene lamps and candles with off-grid lighting -- their high intensity LED light bulbs are re-charged by solar power and can be easily moved to where they are needed. Also present was SunEdison, the largest solar energy service provider in North America, looking to break into the African market. And countless others, specializing in wind, geothermal, and hydropower. There was considerable interest from government officials as well -- the governor of Ogun State in Nigeria, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, outlined his state's efforts to increase investments in solar and wind energy projects. While there is no doubt that American companies face many challenges in bringing their products to Africa, there is also room for optimism as evidenced by the wide array of renewable energy products and the high level of enthusiasm on display yesterday.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.