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Electricity Coverage Rising in AfricaIt is hard to imagine life without electricity. In the American standard of living, electricity pervades every aspect of a person’s life, from food storage to entertainment and everything in between. In Africa, however, only 30 percent of people have access to electricity.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a USAID agency that aims to provide people in Africa with access to electricity. They plan to make 60 new electricity connections and generate 30,000 more megawatts (MW) of electricity across the continent by 2030. The goal is to do this by harnessing the sun, wind, lake water, and natural gas to power rural areas that do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa tracks its progress on various projects by tracking business transactions with African power companies. For example, in 2016, they made a deal with the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of State to provide $30 million worth of financing of 32 renewable energy projects in 10 countries in Africa. With Power Africa’s help, 90 business transactions have been completed and 25 of Africa’s 55 countries now have access to some form of electricity. Examples from Power Africa actions are described in a text below.

Mali

Although the demand for electricity in Mali is currently greater than the supply, that does not mean that there is no supply at all. Electricity in Mali currently comes from mostly hydraulic and thermal energy (55 and 44 percent, respectively). Power Africa plans to help Mali produce an additional 80 MW of hydroelectric energy, more than 300 MW from biomass, and unlimited MW from the sun.

Electricity usage has already gone up in Mali. Major mining companies increased their energy consumption by 136 MW (189 percent) between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, the government passed a law mandating partnerships between public and private electric companies in order to increase MW production. The ultimate goal is to make an additional 20,000 MW of energy and distribute it to 50 million people by 2020.

Namibia

Currently, Namibia gets most of its electricity from power grids in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries. However, electricity demand in these countries is way higher than supply, forcing Namibia to find ways to generate its own electricity. As of 2008, Namibia can only generate 393 MW from 3 stations, while the national demand is 533 MW.

One of these stations, the Ruacana power station, is dependent on the flow of water from the Kunene River, which flows out of Angola. Another station, the coal-run Eck power station, is costly to operate and maintain. Eck, along with the oil-based Paratus power station, is only used for short-term peaks in electricity demand.

For the time being, Namibia still needs to have its electricity needs met by its neighbors. The Caprivi link is a transmission line that connects Namibia’s power grid to those in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides the country with an additional 600 MW, fulfilling Namibia’s electricity needs. In 2007, Namibia consumed 3.6 TWh of electricity.

Tanzania

Most of Tanzania’s electricity (90 percent) comes from biomass. This has resulted in mass deforestation and, thus, is far from ideal for the ecosystem. Only 18.4 percent of Tanzanian citizens have access to electricity in any form. Currently, the country is financially incapable of extending the power grid into all rural areas.

In 1975, the government founded the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO). TANESCO has a nationwide monopoly on electricity production and distribution. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) is trying to end this monopoly by allowing companies to get licenses to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is slowly getting electricity into rural areas. With these services, the government aims to make electricity available to everyone in Tanzania, and one can see electricity coverage rising from their efforts.

Conclusion

In the modern day, electricity seems like a basic ingredient for life that it seems like everyone should have it. The people in Power Africa agree and we can see electricity coverage rising in Africa as a result of their efforts. Mali is making more energy from more sources than ever, Namibia is starting to make its own electricity, and Tanzania is spreading electricity out as far as it can. Africa is becoming more and more electrified, reaching the ultimate goal- provide access to electricity for everyone on the continent.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

powering Africa
Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. With better access to electricity, Africans will have the opportunity to grow socially and economically. Power Africa, a five-year initiative launched by former president Barack Obama, aims to increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable power in Africa and in turn support Africa’s economic growth.

The initiative is powering Africa by facilitating the cooperation of governments around the world, the private sector and technical and legal experts to increase Africans’ access to power by using the natural resources of the sun, wind, streams, lakes and natural gas.

Powering Africa Key to the Continent’s Economic Development 

Access to electricity is an opportunity for economic and social growth. Power Africa aims to generate 30,000 more megawatts of electricity and electrify another 60 million homes and businesses. Since 2013, Power Africa has closed 90 power transactions valued at more than $14.5 billion, which are expected to generate more than 7,500 megawatts of power in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although 7,500 megawatts seems minuscule compared to the goal of more than 30,000 megawatts, Power Africa’s deal tracking tool application is publicly tracking 440 transactions totaling 33,444 megawatts, and it is internally tracking 800 transactions that have the potential to add another 75,000 megawatts. Additionally, it has facilitated more than 10 million electrical connections, bringing electricity to more than 50 million people. 

Power Africa is connecting homes and businesses through off-grid and small-scale renewable power projects. Beyond the Grid, a sub-initiative launched in June 2014, is powering Africa by working to unlock investment and growth in off-grid energy and electricity access projects across the African continent. Power Africa has funded off-grid companies and projects that have enabled tens of millions of people to gain access to electricity for the first time. 

Power Africa’s Reach Extends to Many Aspects of the Global Economy

Power Africa also focuses on the role of women in Africa’s power sector. The USAID 2017 Power Africa Report revealed the correlation between workforce diversity and performance and showed that companies that invest in women outperform their peers. Power Africa strives to promote gender equality and female empowerment by supporting projects, programs and policies that promote the engagement of both men and women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Additionally, Power Africa is one of the largest public-private partnerships in history, with more than $54 billion in commitments and more than 150 public and private sector partners. While it strives to power Africa by sustaining economic growth, it also provides economic opportunities for American taxpayers, workers and businesses. As the five-year initiative came to a close, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced Power Africa 2.0, a continuation of the original Power Africa. 

Green stated, “Under Power Africa 2.0, we will be expanding beyond our previous targets of increased energy generation and access and looking to make gains in the areas of distribution and transmission. And perhaps most importantly, we will be taking on the enabling environments that allow private enterprise to grow and thoroughly flourish.” 

In its next phase, this initiative powering Africa will focus on improving environments and making sure utilities are stable. It will also target U.S. outreach to help U.S. companies see the opportunities that exist in Africa.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr

Power Africa Provides Electricity to 50 MillionLiving without electricity causes many hardships, especially for the more than 50 percent of people without it in Africa. Power Africa, an organization centered on providing countries in Africa with electricity, has provided electricity to more than 50 million people in Africa thus far.

With extreme weather and labor-intensive chores, it can be hard to live without it. Milk spoils, children have a hard time doing their homework, people have to take a bus to town to charge cell phones and many women even have to give birth in the dark. Power Africa is changing the way individuals go about their daily lives.

Power Africa Providing Electricity

While the organization is in its fourth year, Power Africa is steadily making progress towards its goal. It aims to increase generation capacity by 30,000 megawatts as well as add 60 million new electricity connections by 2030. Since its inception, it has already reached an incredible number of people. The organization uses renewable energy and installs solar power throughout Africa to provide power to citizens.

Power Africa has not only provided electricity but has also initiated public-private partnerships. Thanks to these partnerships, more than 100 private energy companies as well as investment firms, are working with the United States government to invest over $40 billion total, which is five times the United State’s first $7 billion investment towards electricity. These investors are a huge part of this movement and restoring electricity to Africa’s countries.

The Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy Program

Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) is an Arizona State University program. In partnership with Power Africa, it has provided regional training centers across 15 countries in Africa. This totals over 28,400 hours of training.

This program has made a huge difference for Africa. In the past, many new energy installations have failed due to not having enough trained technicians who can maintain them, especially in the solar power maintenance.

Along with this program, come more opportunities for women. VOTCEC has recruited over 150 women to take part in the solar power trainings.

Power Africa has created a network of partners, and programs, that have all teamed together to provide Africa with electricity. It continues to progress towards its goal of 60 million more power connections in the next 12 years. The organization is moving fast towards its goal and has been extremely successful in their work thus far.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Michael Meraner

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

USAID's Power Africa InitiativeWithin the entire continent of Africa, 57 percent of people have no access to electricity. In places like South Sudan, that percentage skyrockets to 97 percent. Power Africa, an initiative started by the USAID, is working to change this.

Power Africa has the goal of adding over 30,000 megawatts of clean energy capacity to African homes and businesses. These goals are achieved through partnerships with American private businesses. Power Africa works to facilitate private sector transactions and cultivate optimal investment climates. These partnerships help to further African development while saving U.S. taxpayer dollars and creating jobs here at home.

More specifically, as Power Africa notes in its annual report, “Applying U.S. Government resources in support of U.S. business growth in Africa, Power Africa has a hand in developing multi-million and billion dollar projects that are producing returns for U.S. investors and supporting job growth at home.”

So, far Power Africa has added 7,200 megawatts of energy. This means that 53 million people have access to electricity today who did not have access prior to the launch of the initiative. By 2020, that number is expected to more than double.

The work Power Africa is doing is vital. Access to electricity can be viewed as a stepping stone to lasting development. With electricity, people can run more efficient businesses, provide better health care and improve education for citizens. And the simple act of providing a community with electricity can be hugely empowering.

This is especially apparent in the story of Regina Tembo, a Zambian woman who is the manager of her local micro-grid. Members of Tembo’s community can purchase electricity from her. Tembo makes sure that her neighbors and local businesses are provided energy tailored to their needs. Not only is she providing her fellow Zambians with much-needed electricity, but Tembo also feels empowered. “Being a Standard Microgrid Manager has increased my status in the community and enabled me to share knowledge with people in different countries,” she told USAID.

Of course, Power Africa still has a long way to go. In the near future, Power Africa hopes to provide larger systems, like micro-grids and solar home systems. These systems allow people to power larger appliances.

USAID’s Power Africa goals may be ambitious, but they’re achievable. Building a brighter Africa will help to reduce poverty, increase development and create jobs here at home.

Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr


On the surface, the term “foreign aid” indicates a government policy that is purely altruistic. The reality is that foreign aid is also an investment. Aid opens new opportunities for American businesses overseas and promotes domestic job growth by developing future trading partners. The Power Africa initiative is a prime example of the return on investment of USAID.

Two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Established in 2013, Power Africa is a government-led partnership aiming to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative aims to establish 60 million new connections for homes and businesses by 2030. American firms, such as General Electric and SunEdison, sponsor and manage projects in conjunction with other international and local businesses.

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) recently highlighted the return on investment of USAID and the Power Africa initiative. He elaborated, “USAID put $8 billion up and attracted more than $45 billion [in commitments].” According to USAID, $2.8 billion has been spent thus far and $14 billion guaranteed. That amounts to a return on investment ratio of one to five.

The return on investment of the Power Africa initiative should not solely be considered a short-term goal; USAID funding and assistance have fostered immediate short-term investments by U.S., African and other international businesses. However, the long-term ramifications of the development of the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa have the potential for much larger returns.

Growing the energy sector and bringing more and more African citizens into the global marketplace creates new opportunities for American exports. Access to electricity boosts business growth in the local economy, improves medical care, encourages investment and creates a platform to further integrate Africa into the global economy.

Power Africa benefits current and future generations of Africans as it gives them the opportunity to become more self-reliant and less dependent on foreign subsidies. For example, South Korea received billions of dollars in U.S. foreign assistance from the 1940s through the 1970s. In 2013, South Korea was the sixth-largest trading partner of the U.S., with exports of $42 billion and imports of $62 billion.

The Marshall Plan is another notable success story of the return on investment of international development money. The Marshall Plan was a policy under President Truman in which the U.S. government spent just over $120 billion in today’s dollars to rebuild Western European economies after World War II. The policy was a resounding success. The U.S. now exports approximately $240 billion to the EU every year, and millions of Americans have jobs as a result.

Historical examples provide concrete evidence that both the recipient and donor benefit from foreign aid. Power Africa has the potential to transform the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa and provide further evidence of the return on investment of USAID.

Michael Farquharson

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Policy in Africa
In 2000, the Clinton administration established the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), drastically integrating trade as a foundation for economic development in Africa.

In 2015, the Obama administration passed legislation to extend the program until 2025 following the actions of its predecessor, the Bush administration in 2004. Initiatives that set a developmental precedent for Africa have been protected by the Obama administration, but it is paramount to the success of U.S. foreign policy in Africa that development attempts continued to be pursued.

The Power Africa initiative, born during the Obama administration, aims to substantially increase access to electrical conduits and power sources to throttle growth and development in Africa.

Developed in collaboration with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), a projected $3 billion was to be contributed in the initial five years by the AfDB. Methods for allocating power to citizens of sub-Saharan Africa are imperative in establishing partnerships with private investors to facilitate bankable energy initiatives.

The Obama administration reports that private companies and the African government have reached more than a quarter of their goal to generate power for over 3.5 million homes in sub-Saharan Africa. The initial goal to increase power by double within five years was not accomplished, however, much headway was made toward the program’s successful future.

The conclusion of the 2016 presidential elections will be key in determining the likelihood of the security and development of Power Africa, as well as other global health and economic aims for U.S. foreign policy for Africa in 2017.

The United Nations lists the progress of global partnerships for development as Africa’s eighth Millennium Development Goal in attempts to accomplish the major goal of economic growth potential. Further attention to the development of programs such as Power Africa during 2017 amid the next presidential administration is vital to the outcome of such economic integration of Africans into the world market and to foster local businesses.

Amber Bailey

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

power_africa
In 2013, President Barack Obama launched Power Africa, an $8 billion foreign aid program designed to help improve access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. It aimed to provide electricity to the region’s 961 million residents, who currently only use as much electricity as New York City. Two thirds of sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa is adding 60 million new electricity connections and is generating up to 30,000 megawatts of power in six countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. The project works with local and U.S. partners to improve regulations, build capacity and provide technical assistance. However, two years in, research has shown that Power Africa still faces major hurdles in its implementation.

In Kenya, for instance, the power grid infrastructure has rapidly expanded, covering most of the countryside. However, only 30 percent of Kenya, including just five percent of rural households, have power. Building a bigger infrastructure was not going to be a solution, researchers realized, because connecting to the power grid was much more expensive than what many households could afford. Moreover, Kenya lacked people who could design and construct electrical wiring. Even when a household bought a connection, it still took months to actually get electricity. When they finally did get power, it was extremely unreliable. Power outages would sometimes last for weeks at a time.

Power Africa has not brought any electricity to Nigeria at all. Bickering between government agencies, private companies and foreign governments has slowed projects down in a country that is not able to provide electricity to half of its population. Officials say there have only been conversations about potential projects in the future. The Obama administration has boasted of a few closed deals, but they had already been in the works before the Power Africa initiative.

In such countries, only the wealthy can afford electricity, which they get through the use of private generators. It has even become a status symbol to own one. However, private generators add to these countries’ worsening environmental problems.

President Barack Obama said, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs. And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy. You’ve got to have power.”

The U.N. predicts that sub-Saharan Africans will make up nearly 25 percent of the world’s population by 2060. Ensuring that this generation has access to electricity in order to expand their economy, improve education and enhance living standards is important to mitigate poverty in future generations. Currently, blackouts are costing sub-Saharan Africa 2.1 percent of their GDP every year.

Radhika Singh

Sources: Reuters, USAID, NY Times 1, NY Times 2
Photo: NY Times

Sub Saharan Africa Agriculture
For those in sub-Saharan Africa, or SSA, around 47 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day. Even more jarring are the statistics on child poverty throughout SSA, represented in a recent paper on deprivation analysis from the UNICEF Office of Research.

The paper defines and analyzes poverty in the form of various deprivations related to health, sanitation, food, water and education. Based on available data from 30 SSA countries, 86 percent of children under the age of 18 live with at least one deprivation. Within that 86 percent, 247 million children live with two or more deprivations, identified as lack of sanitation and poor infant feeding. In addition, 87 million children live with four or five deprivations, which include a lack of sanitation, poor vaccine coverage, unclean water and poor education. While research demonstrates a downward trend in poverty for the majority of the countries in SSA, Rwanda, Mozambique, the Ivory Coast and Guinea continue to see a rise in poverty, and the region is clearly left with pressing needs.

We have the numbers—now what? Some believe that the key to overcoming poverty in SSA is to promote and invest in science. SSA countries are encouraged to focus on scientific research and education to accelerate development and stimulate economic growth. The U.S. Agency for International Development has been a proponent of the initiative, vital to the success of these impoverished areas.

Two recent inventions that aid the poor are simple chlorine dispensers in Uganda, and a texting system that uses codes from prescription medications to ensure authenticity. USAID has taken additional poverty-fighting actions through the establishment of Power Africa, a program that collaborates with the government, private sector and others to allow more access to electricity for the SSA population. A reported 600 million people are without power.

In its regional economic outlook, the International Monetary Fund reported modest positive development in SSA, but also acknowledged that difficulties remain. Progress in the majority of these economies has sparked primarily through agriculture, infrastructure and services, but the widespread Ebola outbreak and security issues in the South Sudan and Central African Republic have left many with dimmed optimism.

Those working toward economic growth in SSA must not only direct their efforts toward scientific research, but also support for a post-Ebola recovery plan and promotion of regional stability. Costing lives and resources, Ebola has significantly hindered the progress of the economy. Tourism is at a notable low, along with manufacturing. The number of agricultural exports has also declined as farmers flee their land in fear of Ebola. Stability remains a challenge for many SSA countries; however, Chad, which has benefited greatly from a continuing era of stability, could serve as a leader on the forefront of peace. Although there has been some improvements to date, the SSA poverty crisis will require a global effort if it is to be ameliorated.

– Amy Russo

Sources: IMF, The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2, UNICEF, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Sci Dev