US Development Finance Programmes - Opportunities to team up with US businesses |09 July 2015
With the World becoming an open arena for business, Seychelles, though small, is not left behind. President James Michel, in his National Day speech this year put the empowerment of Seychellois entrepreneurs at the heart of his economic agenda.
In response to that call, the US embassy organised a workshop yesterday at the Eden Bleu hotel on the US trade and financing programmes available from the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic), Export-Import (Exim) Bank, US Trade Development Agency (TDA), and US Agency for International Development (USAid). The workshop was led by Peter Ballinger, Opic’s regional director based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Speaking at the launch of the workshop, the Minister for Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy Jean-Paul Adam said: “Today’s event is an opportunity to discuss ways in which the US government's programmes such as Opic can create mutually beneficial opportunities, where Seychellois entrepreneurs and US investors can build on each other's experiences to open up new realms of opportunity.”
The first area where Seychelles can benefit is renewable energy. “There is a natural alignment between the policies of our government to foster renewable energy generation and the technological advances of US based firms. Our government's commitment to invest in the democratisation of renewable energy through annual provision of home based PV systems to those most vulnerable, to possible investments in power generation projects provide us with an array of possibilities,” Minister Adam said.
“In addition the government is studying means by which we can ensure that all new building factor in renewable technologies at the planning stage,” he added. He said Seychelles welcomes the possibility of developing feasibility studies to better cater for specific needs of adapting these technologies to our small economy, complementing the studies already underway notably led by the World Bank.
“Secondly, our commitment to a blue economy gives us the chance to build economic opportunity while also sustaining future generations. More investment in value addition and processing activities in Seychelles will contribute to multiply the effects of the fisheries industry,” said the minister.
“Thirdly, I am convinced that we can build a partnership based on positioning Seychelles as a potential base of US capital investments into Africa. We are one of the most stable countries of the region. We are not encumbered by capital controls and we have a floating exchange rate conducive for structuring cross border investments. We have already committed to Fatca compliance and offer a legally secure environment for US businesses investing in Africa thanks to our membership in key regional organisations and our extensive bilateral treaty network. New legislation being developed this year will further broaden the products and services we can offer, and which can create essential synergies with Opic and similar mechanisms,” said the minister.
Oic, Exim Bank, and TDA are the US government’s development finance institutions. Opic, which has a long history of supporting projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, is playing a key role in President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative. Opic will commit up to $1.5 billion in financing and insurance to energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and is working with the TDA to provide $20 million project preparation, feasibility and technical assistance grants.
US embassy economic officer Patrick Koucheravy discussed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and the USAid East Africa Trade and Investment Hub (EATIH), based in Nairobi, Kenya, which provides Agoa support for eligible countries, including Seychelles.
“Our relationship in business is very small right now but some US citizens have taken good advantage to invest in the financial services here already. Seychelles is well known in the USA as a highly touristic destination, but it is very far from us. The other challenge is that the big American companies do not think they can get the volume of the required products from Seychelles. Our main objective is to make Seychellois aware that they are eligible for some programmes and raise awareness of ways we can partner together. We want Seychellois to know that we are looking to work with them,” stated Mr Koucheravy.
Mr Ballinger added that “we are looking for projects that generate finance for the long term and also projects that will benefit the people of lower income and the economy. Seychelles is very small and we are present in the eastern Africa to help the private businessmen and governments structure their projects to be able to benefit from all our programmes”.
“Once again, we have now another option to access finance and opportunities to trade with the US. As we are talking about the Blue economy, the US can be another market apart from Europe for our sea products. Even for renewable energy, with the existing programmes we are getting good schemes at very good terms. I hope our business community will seize this opportunity,” said Marco Francis, chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The workshop was attended by ministers Wallace Cosgrow, Michael Benstrong and Didier Dogley and various stakeholders from the business community.