The senior US Presidential Advisor for Energy and Investment has highlighted Africell’s contribution to the campaign to boost Africa’s digital development through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), describing its digital services in Angola, DRC and other African countries as the project’s “connective tissue”.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 78th annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, Amos Hochstein explained that with the help of targeted financing from the US government, private sector investors such as Africell can have an accelerated impact in sub-Saharan Africa.
Referring to Africell’s newest operating market, Mr Hochstein said: “Africell connects the dots because with a relatively modest investment from the US government, it has been able to launch and grow quickly by giving Angolan consumers valuable new mobile capabilities.”
Under the aegis of the PGII, the United States and other G7 governments (in addition to the EU and a raft of international finance institutions and sovereign wealth funds) are aiming to unlock hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in developing markets such as the ‘Lobito Corridor’ region of Africa, with a focus on improving digital connectivity, increasing gender equality, and raising environmental standards.
According to Mr Hochstein, the concept of the Lobito Corridor (which connects Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia) is built around a vision for an integrated transportation system through which critical minerals from DRC and Zambia can be moved to global markets by train and ship: a cheaper, cleaner and quicker option than the current road-based process. Mr Hochstein argued that the project is about using digital and physical infrastructure to “connect Africa both to itself and to international markets, thereby increasing commerce, reducing prices, and supporting both local and US interests”.
The status of the Lobito Corridor as a model for collaborative international investment in specific regions is gaining traction. At the G20 Summit in India earlier in September, President Joe Biden described it as a “game-changing regional investment”. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 19 September, he argued that the Lobito Corridor will “boost regional connectivity and strengthen commerce and food security in Africa.” The economic corridor model consists in strategically layering transformative investments across multiple sectors so as to intensify economic development, secure supply chains, and deepen regional connectivity.
As the only US-owned mobile network operator in Africa and a recipient of funding from the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Africell exemplifies opportunities for private companies to plug into multilateral investment initiatives such as the PGII/Lobito Corridor. Africell recently partnered with USAID on a $5 million project to increase access to mobile money in Angola, a country which – despite having a mature banking sector and relatively big economy, ranks among the lowest in Africa on the GSMA’s mobile money prevalence index. Further afield, in Sierra Leone, Africell has won a $1 million grant from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to explore expanding broadband internet provision in the west African country – a collaboration intended to advance both the PGII agenda and the US Government’s Digital Transformation with Africa initiative.
Amos Hochstein, who is a senior advisor to President Biden and a key architect of the PGII, was speaking at an event hosted by Africell in New York for officials, investors, scholars and journalists interested in the intersection of the PGII and Lobito Corridor. As the program gathers momentum, the event was an opportunity establish alignment between stakeholders from the United States, Angola, DRC, Zambia and elsewhere.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of Zambia, the country’s national security advisor Dr Lawrence Mwananyanda said that better digital connectivity is a key objective of Zambia’s involvement in the Lobito Corridor. “Zambia is land-linked, not land-locked”, he said. “Investment in digital,
transportation and other essential infrastructure will have huge benefits, both for ourselves and for our trade partners around the world. We are excited to be working with the United States to identify and attract quality private sector operators who can work with local firms to create local jobs, improve skills and deliver opportunities, and we see the PGII/Lobito Corridor is an effective vehicle for this”.
Present at the event were representatives of other companies operating in the Lobito Corridor region, including Ivanhoe Mines, which oversees critical minerals projects in DRC, and Carrinho, a home-grown Angolan food company pioneering new regional standards in food origination, processing, storage, distribution and marketing.