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