Clean EnergyIn a time when many world leaders are calling for strong action on climate change, organizations must balance between providing energy to underdeveloped regions and protecting the environment. USAID along with Power Africa are working on increasing access to clean energy in Africa, both protecting the environment and increasing people’s economic opportunities.

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest rates of energy accessibility in the world, with only about 25 percent of the population having access, compared to about 40 percent in other low-income countries. Even where there is energy, it is often unreliable, leading to blackouts that negatively influence businesses’ productivity and profit.

Energy access is vital, as it leads to more opportunities for education and business, as well as the ability to keep and store food and medicine. In turn, access to education leads to a decrease in poverty, as people gain valuable life skills and job opportunities.

Africa has great potential for clean energy and groups such as Project Africa have been able to increase investment. Last year, Google launched a new investment into a wind power project in Kenya, which will become the biggest wind farm on the continent. Current estimates indicate that this wind farm will be able to provide 15 percent of Kenya’s energy. Additionally, new investments are being promoted to access solar energy and strengthen the existing grids, so that energy becomes more reliable.

The economic benefits of increased energy are numerous. USAID worked with the U.S.-Africa Development Foundation (USADF) in Tanzania to create a solar-grid franchise that is made specifically to be accessible to female entrepreneurs.

When women have access to jobs and the ability to earn higher wages, it boosts the economy around them. In countries where women’s participation in the labor force grows the fastest, poverty rates decrease the fastest.

When people have access to energy, their quality of life and the opportunities they have dramatically increase. It means that students can study in the evenings or go to school in the early mornings, that businesses can develop and diversify and that people have access to more of the resources they need to thrive and grow.

The clean energy developments in Africa are both protecting the planet and bettering the lives of hundreds of millions.

Emily Milakovic

Sources: USAID, Washington Post, World Bank
Photo: Flickr