it helps countries become stronger and more stable. That’s good for the people in those countries, as they lead healthier more secure lives. It’s good for governments, because economic prosperity contributes to growth and stability. It’s good for entire regions, as countries become stronger partners on the global stage. It’s good for our bilateral relationships, because when countries’ interests begin to align, it clears up the way for new partnerships and even greater collaboration. And it’s good for the private sector as new markets open up.
“And again, I want to say, in the case of Ghana and in so many other countries, we have the diaspora in the United States. That’s one of the strengths of the United States, that we have people from all over the world living here and therefore we have ties. And we should use the diaspora community to help cement those ties. And that’s really why I have always been for immigration, and pro-immigration. You hear a lot about certain candidates talking about building walls and keeping people out. We want to get people in as far as I’m concerned. Because who comes to immigrate to the United States? As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best and the brightest. It’s not lazy people; lazy people stay home. They’re the best and the brightest.
“So people who want to live a better life, who want to improve their lot, who want to improve their family’s lot, they do it. And at the same time they’re improving the United States’ lot. And I think that’s important to say.
“I am the grandson of foreign immigrants, so I could never be against immigration. And we have to keep sending a positive note, a positive tone, and not let the naysayers and people who talk about immigrants as if they’re some sort of I don’t know what [inaudible]. Tell the truth, because the truth is really on our side as well.
“So when progress is underpinned by a strong respect for human rights, by investments in health and education, by support for political pluralism, and we even speak the same language as Ghana because we were both colonies of the British, more people are able to participate in their economies and prosper.
“So doing business in Ghana—and more broadly, in Africa—makes sense, as long as we’re doing it in a way that seeks to create shared prosperity. Shared prosperity.
“We’ve seen American economic ties with Ghana flourish in recent years. Investments in the energy sector have been particularly strong, along with growing interest in Ghana’s medical and computing sectors.
“The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which looks to steer private-sector resources toward developing economies, has set up an Incentive Agreement with Ghana. Our governments have also set up a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, and an accord under our Open Skies program to make air travel between our countries easier.
“All these actions have eased the way to foreign direct investment in Ghana totaling more than $3 billion per year. Our State Department views Ghana as a welcoming environment for business and investment, especially compared to its regional neighbors.
“But all this progress notwithstanding, a number of roadblocks still stand in the way of more robust investment in Ghana: complex real estate laws, a difficult process for establishing a business, weak intellectual property protections, and what I view as the greatest challenge in Ghana and in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, reliable access to electricity.
“And I have been a leader in Congress in terms of Electrify Africa. I mean it’s inconceivable to us in the United States that people don’t have basic electricity. Or they have it and it goes out, and it’s not reliable. And we don’t realize that. We need to realize it. So we can help people in Africa have, electrify Africa so that they have the same sources of electricity that we have here.
“So suppose a company is looking to build a factory or open an office in a new market. The person making that decision is going to think twice about investing anywhere if there’s no guarantee that the power will flow when you flip the switch. And a lack of reliable power is tied to so many other challenges: keeping the lights on in classrooms, powering medical equipment in hospitals, government agencies accessing records and providing basic services.
“Businesses look for stability before they invest, and reliable electricity is a very important part of that. And that’s why I have supported efforts to promote access to electricity across sub-Saharan Africa. I was the lead Democratic sponsor of the Electrify Africa Act, which the President signed in February. This measure makes the President’s Power Africa Initiative a permanent part of our law.
“This effort seeks to create strong new partnerships among governments, banks, and other private-sector investors with the aim of providing first-time power to 50 million people by 2020. It calls for a long-term strategy from our own government for assisting sub-Saharan countries with national power strategies, and it directs other American agencies to make assistance for power projects in sub-Saharan Africa a top priority. And it helps bring American influence to bear around the world to encourage international bodies to bring a new focus to this challenge.
“For Ghana, there’s more good news when it comes to meeting this challenge. In 2014, Ghana signed its second compact the Millennium Challenge Corporation—what we call in Washington, the MCC—one of our agencies focused on international development. Under this agreement, the MCC is investing up to a half billion, that’s billion, dollars to support the transformation of Ghana’s power sector and encourage private investment.
“The Government of Ghana has also pledged to invest at least $37.4 million, and the compact is expected to catalyze at least $4.6 billion in private energy investment and activity from American firms in the coming years. And I’m confident that this compact will serve as an anchor for increased American engagement in Ghana for years to come.
“So, in conclusion, it also serves as a great model of how we should be leveraging resources and driving investment across the region. We should be focused on helping countries unleash the potential of their citizens and resources. A reliable power grid is a critical first stop, or step.
“So I’m going to keep pushing this issue in Congress, along with other priorities that will encourage investment and engagement across the continent. And we all need to keep making the case that investing in countries across Africa is good for business, good for governments, good for peace and stability, and most importantly, good for people. Good for people in Africa, good for people in America, it’s a true national, natural partnership.
“So I thank you all for your participation and your commitment. And I pledge to work with you in any way I can. I want to thank the Councilman again. And I want to thank all the people who work so hard to make sure that the U.S. and Ghana maintain its cooperation and maintain its partnership. It’s truly a great partnership that will only grow in the future. Thank you very much.”