My Personal Journey as a Tanzanian Working on Power Africa

 Steve Wasira

By: Steve Wasira, Jr.
Power Africa Transaction Advisor for Tanzania

Call it luck or call it coincidence, but I happened to be in my home country of Tanzania when President Barack Obama visited in July 2013. "I need to get home quick" I implored my cab driver. I didn't want to miss the President live on television.

I heard the President talk about the need for a new energy partnership between the United States and Africa. After living in New York City for the past seven years working on energy projects across the continent, the President's call inspired me to return to my home country to continue working on energy issues alongside my fellow Tanzanians. In some ways, it seemed the President was thinking of people just like me, who were born in Africa but fortunate enough to experience the wonderful educational and professional opportunities that America has to offer.

As a Transaction Advisor working for Deloitte as part of the USAID team involved in Power Africa, I am fortunate enough to be able to contribute to the initiative. I work with the Tanzanian government authorities on a variety of issues ranging from policy reform to developing technical capability and helping to address project financing needs. Power Africa's other transaction advisors and I all strive to further President Obama's goal to dramatically increase the number of people who have access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. But this goal will not be easy, certainly not in Tanzania; my native country faces challenges in its energy sector.

Since I started working with project developers in advancing rural energy development in mid-October of 2013, I have seen two main challenges which must be overcome in order for Tanzania to move forward to meet its long-term energy needs. First, local developers must be able to find the necessary financing for power projects. Second, working with the Tanzanian government, the U.S. Government and other Power Africa partners, such as the African Development Bank and World Bank, must all continue to work together to increase the number of capable developers available for these proposed projects.

Progress will come step by step here in Tanzania, and that is to be expected and welcomed. In part due to Power Africa's work, a 10 megawatt small hydro power project, developed by a local company EA Power and located on the Kiwira River in southern Tanzania, is now under review for financing from local and regional banks. This is one of the many projects I continue to support.

The ultimate goal is to have a bankable business plan, enabling projects to be presented to lenders and obtain financing. The aforementioned Kiwira River small hydro project and many others that we work on would provide much needed electricity to communities, especially in rural areas.

This is a time of great excitement for the Power Africa initiative. I do miss living in Brooklyn, but being here allows me to work more closely in making my home country a better place to live, so that Tanzanians can someday have some of the same opportunities I was fortunate enough to have in the United States. There is a certain buzz associated with Power Africa in Tanzania. People are heavily interested in this initiative, perhaps most of all my mother, who lives in Dar es Salaam and likes to tell her friends how proud she is of her son coming home to support development efforts in his country.