electrify africa
On February 8, 2016, after years of lobbying in D.C., the Electrify Africa Act was signed into law by President Obama after passing through Congress with bipartisan support.

The purpose of Electrify Africa was to establish a clear precedent for energy-focused U.S. foreign policy in sub-Saharan Africa. Further, the bill set a number of goals for the Power Africa partnership to achieve by the year 2030. These included:

  • Promotion of first-time access to power services for at least 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020
  • Encouragement of the installation of at least 20,000 additional megawatts of electrical power in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020
  • Promotion of reliable and affordable power in urban, rural and underserved areas
  • Encouragement for necessary reforms to support electricity access projects and market-based power generation and distribution
  • Promotion of an energy development strategy for sub-Saharan Africa that includes the use of oil, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal power
  • Promotion of the use of private financing, and removal of barriers to private financing and assistance for projects, including charitable organizations.

The bill intended for these goals to be achieved through U.S. diplomatic engagement with the governments of sub-Saharan African countries, international financial institutions, and African regional economic communities, cooperatives and private sectors.

In addition to these targets, Electrify Africa ensured strong presidential support of the Power Africa initiative by enlisting direct action from the Executive branch.

So what’s new with Electrify Africa?

According to Power Africa’s 2017 Report, the nation has successfully implemented 7,600 megawatts of electrical power. Though it accounts for less than half of the 2020 goal of 20,000, the report highlights exceptional progress in the construction of sustainable infrastructure for the sector. If all goes to plan, this will ensure a rapid increase in energy availability over the next four years.

The projections for 2020 and 2030 show an increase in sustainable energy sources like hydro and solar power and a marked decrease in the use of natural gas. Combined, these currently account for roughly 60 percent of the regions energy output.

By 2030, Power Africa expects to see more than 50 percent of sub-Saharan energy produced from hydro, solar and biomass power alone.

What has been the social impact of Electrify Africa?

As one of its core points, the bill called for 50 million people to receive home electricity access by 2020. Power Africa has recently recorded that 53 million individuals, and 10.6 million homes and businesses, have already received power.

In addition to technical assistance, Power Africa has also made it a part of its mission to support the integration of female engineers into the body of the sub-Saharan African energy sector. This aim is supported by enlisting local women to manage microgrid initiatives within their communities.  

The microgrid is intended as an alternative to the larger commercial grids which are inaccessible in rural regions of the continent. Further, due to recent technological improvements, these grids offer affordable long-term electricity options for rural communities. They are currently being used to power health clinics, schools, and limited forms of agricultural production.

Ultimately, the progress Electrify Africa has helped the Power Africa partnership make is game-changing. Not only are there directly measurable improvements in the sector’s infrastructure, but there also seems to be a rapid development of private sector involvement in the process. Such development offers much hope for continued improvements in the region.

– Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr

Electrify Africa Act
The Electrify Africa Act has passed a full vote in the House of Representatives – an action welcomed by The Borgen Project.

Having been approved by the Senate in December, it will now go to President Obama for signature.

Since the legislation was first introduced in 2013, The Borgen Project has held nearly 400 meetings with Congressional offices. The organization has also mobilized over 6,300 emails from constituents to their members of Congress in support of the bill.

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised passage of the bill, calling it a big deal for Africa and for U.S. job creators. “Increasing access to electricity will dramatically improve lives, create jobs and expand opportunities in both Africa and America,” he said in a statement released after the vote.

The legislation, which received bipartisan support, is a commitment by the United States to promote first-time access to electricity for over 50 million people living in both rural and urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.

It requires the President to create an interagency working group that will develop strategies to meet energy goals using a broad range of power solutions. It encourages development partners to prioritize funding that supports private investment in electricity projects. And, it requires the working group to submit performance reports to congress to ensure the initiative stays on track.

Through these actions, Congress is hoping to install at least 20,000 megawatts of electrical power throughout the region.

Over 70 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity – nearly 580 million people without lights, refrigeration, modern medical technology, or reliable educational environments. Lack of electricity is considered to be the continent’s most pressing obstacle to economic development and trade.

Electrify Africa will build on the success of USAID’s Power Africa Initiative, which has created over 26,000 megawatts of electrical energy in the region since it began. The program has enjoyed success with its off-the-grid power solutions, including pay-as-you-go solar panels that families and small businesses can use to power lights, cell phones and other basic appliances.

Development partners are hopeful these kinds of projects will spread under Electrify Africa, opening up new markets, new investment opportunities and re-energized development across the continent.

– Ron Minard

Sources: House Foreign Affairs, The Borgen Project, USAID

Last year, United States President Barack Obama announced the Power Africa initiative to increase access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. This was largely due to the fact that 600 million people in this region, 70 percent of the population, lives without electricity. His initiative aims to double the number of people with access to power by unlocking the substantial natural gas and renewable energy potential that Africa’s climate is suited to deliver.

By bringing together governments of African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania to start, the Power Africa will add more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of efficient cost effective and sustainable electricity generation capacity. By the year 2020, it hopes to connect 20 million new households to electricity and provide commercial industry with electrical power solutions.

On March 27, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs held a hearing titled Powering Africa’s Future: Examining the Power Africa Initiative. With testimony from organizations like U.S. Agency for International Development, Export Import Bank of the United States, Symbion Power, General Electric, The ONE Campaign and others, Congress got an update on the Power Africa initiative.

Working with private companies, USAID has already brokered deals between African governments and private industry that will secure 25 percent of the 10,000 MW goal. Private industry has so far stepped up to commit $2 for every $1 spent by the U.S. government, accounting for $14 billion. Power Africa uses its expansive network and technical expertise to bring together investors, governments, and businesses to facilitate learning and build transactional capacity.

A significant project born out of this collaboration is the Corbetti geothermal project in Ethiopia. The Power Africa base has worked with the Ethiopian government and Reykjavik Geothermal, the company developing the project. The project will generate up to 1,000 MW of renewable energy. This project created further interest in geothermal projects in a region capable of producing up to 15,000 MW of clean power.

In Tanzania, Power Africa teamed up with Kiwari to develop a 10 MW hydropower project. Through a project with Cummins, Kenya launched a 10 MW biomass project that uses mesquite wood as feedstock for its generator. Cummins hopes to expand its biomass projects throughout other nations in Africa.

The ONE Campaign used this opportunity to highlight the Electrify Africa Act, which they say will produce 20 gigawatts of new power using no additional appropriations from the U.S. government.

Power Africa is a great initiative that connects the U.S. with African nations. It spurs economic opportunity for U.S. and local African companies and gives millions of Africans reliable, sustainable power. The participating governments in Africa get to develop projects that they can be proud of and that will uplift their people.

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: U.S. Senate, U.S. Senate, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post