EXIM Board Approves $91.5 Million in U.S. Export Financing for Renewable Energy Rural Electrification Project in Senegal That Supports 500 U.S. Jobs Across 14 States
WASHINGTON - The Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) yesterday unanimously approved approximately $91.5 million in loan guarantee financing that supports U.S. exports of design engineering and construction services to the Republic of Senegal. The transaction will increase access to reliable electricity for rural communities throughout Senegal while supporting an estimated 500 U.S. jobs in 14 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
The transaction - which is expected to bring electricity to approximately 330,000 Senegalese in more than 400 villages - will advance four of EXIM's priorities as set by Congress. Specifically, this transaction supports a small-business exporter, Weldy-Lamont LLC of Mt. Prospect, Illinois; the export of U.S. manufactured goods and services to sub-Saharan Africa; renewable energy technology through the export of solar panels; and the "Program on China and Transformational Exports" as outlined in EXIM's recent reauthorization. United States-based Weldy-Lamont was selected for the project over foreign competition being supported by at least four other governments, including China.
This transaction also advances the goals of the Trump Administration's Prosper Africa and the President's Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) initiatives, which aim to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.
"The selection of Weldy-Lamont for this project is a significant win for not only for this Illinois-headquartered small business and its workers across fourteen states, but also for the United States and Senegal," said EXIM President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed. "Building on my discussion with Senegal's Minister for Economy, Planning, and Cooperation Amadou Hott during our October 18, 2019, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony, this transaction demonstrates Senegal's willingness to consider alternative financing and export including those from the United States, for critical infrastructure needs beyond Chinese sources. We are pleased to support this U.S. small business as it exports its 'Made in the U.S.A.' renewable energy products to sub-Saharan Africa."
"This deal fulfills several of EXIM's goals, including supporting small businesses and competing with China on a global scale," said EXIM Board Member Spencer Bachus III. "There's no more important time for EXIM than today. With the spread of coronavirus, our job will be more challenging, but it will be more important than ever."
"I can think of no better first project for us with the Republic of Senegal than this Weldy-Lamont deal to provide rural electrification to about 415 villages," said EXIM Board Member Judith Pryor. "This deal is part of a whole-of-government approach that encompasses the goals of both Prosper Africa and Power Africa, and we are honored to work with our sister agencies toward these goals."
The financing was approved under EXIM's MOU with Senegal's Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation. The Senegal National Electricity Agency (Senelac) will be the borrower in the transaction and the buyer of the exports. Senegal's Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation will provide a sovereign guarantee of the financing. JP Morgan Chase is the lead arranger and mandated lender. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $100 million, with EXIM supplying 81.5 percent of the funding.
For the project, Weldy-Lamont - a Chicago-area small business with fewer than 20 employees - plans to source from a large U.S. supply chain to procure American-manufactured electrical and solar-energy equipment, as well as a variety of services. EXIM's financing is expected to support an estimated 500 American jobs in 14 states.
The proposed project will consist of low-voltage power lines along existing roads to rural villages, with more remote villages to be served by the establishment of a mini-grid of stand-alone solar units and limited low-voltage lines. The completed project will reduce the need for community-based diesel generation of electricity and will connect hundreds of villages to the grid.
The EXIM Board initially approved a preliminary commitment on Oct. 30, 2019. In addition to EXIM, other federal agencies involved in promoting the selection of Weldy-Lamont for the project include the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
EXIM Small Business Outreach and Relief Efforts
During the open portion of the meeting, the Board received an update from EXIM's Small Business Division. Senior Vice President of Small Business Jim Burrows noted that since EXIM's board quorum was restored in May 2019, EXIM has authorized approximately 1,635 small business transactions, totaling $1.7 billion, and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs.
Earlier this month, EXIM instituted temporary relief measures that provide assistance to U.S. businesses, their buyers, financial institutions, and American workers negatively impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus). Complete information is available on the coronavirus response page. "EXIM recognizes that in the months following the COVID-19 outbreak, exporting may be a challenge for many of our nation's businesses, especially small businesses," said Burrows. "EXIM staffers are working tirelessly to ensure our nation has the proper programs in place to provide U.S. exporters with the financing and other products necessary to export 'Made in the U.S.A.' goods and services."
Office of Small Business Director of Outreach and Education Elizabeth Thomas focused on EXIM's new digital outreach strategy, which was launched in November 2019, alignment with associations whose members would benefit from EXIM's services, and direct customer outreach. Since the digital strategy kickoff, EXIM has engaged over 2800 "new to EXIM" contacts and attributes 73% of FY 2020 authorizations to digital outreach. Particularly given this time of COVID-19, "digital outreach allows us to stay connected with small businesses and provide much needed support in a safe and healthy way," said Thomas.
EXIM Open for Business in 191 Countries
In additional to the voting on the Senegal project during the closed portion of the meeting, the Board of Directors also heard from EXIM's Enterprise Risk Committee and approved changes to EXIM's Country Limitation Schedule (CLS) that are effective April 6, 2020. The changes will be reflected at that time on EXIM's website.
"As elevated demand for EXIM support, as well as support from competitor export credit agencies around the world can be counter-cyclical in nature, EXIM will be needed even more over the next several months to accomplish its mission to support U.S. jobs through exports," said EXIM Chief Risk Officer Ken Tinsley, "I am confident in EXIM's ability to execute this mission successfully while at the same time protecting the U.S. taxpayer."
The CLS is a document that expresses whether EXIM is open or closed for business in a given market. Country conditions in markets in which EXIM is open must meet EXIM's Charter-mandated requirement of a reasonable assurance of re