Africa's Energy CrisisOn June 21,  2023, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced plans to invest some $89 million over a five-year period to “expand access to cleaner, reliable energy in sub-Saharan Africa.” Administrator Samantha Powers introduced the initiative at the 25th Africa Energy Forum (AEF), held in Nairobi, Kenya in June 2023. The announcement coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the Power Africa program, a U.S.-led partnership that has bolstered the AEF’s efforts to resolve Africa’s energy crisis and accelerate the implementation of reliable energy solutions across Africa.

Africa’s Energy Crisis

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the rate of electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa has slowly but steadily increased in recent years, rising from 33.3% in 2010 to 48.2% in 2020. However, with more than 50% of the region’s population lacking access to electricity as of 2020, the rate of electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa remains “the lowest of any region in the world.” This is attributable to factors including a lack of grid distribution, high tariffs, income instability and strained infrastructure budgets, which have collectively lowered consumer demand and discouraged investment in improving the outdated grids that do exist. Accordingly, the report also showed, only about 18% of the sub-Saharan African population had access to clean energy for cooking as of 2020, a remarkably low percentage compared to the world average of about 70%.

Due to the current lack of access to clean energy, women and girls have been “disproportionately affected by household air pollution,” which UNCTAD reports resulted in 700,000 deaths across the continent in 2019. Yet, Africa holds 60% of the world’s best solar energy resources, meaning that there is great potential for African countries to implement safe, sustainable, cost-effective solutions for electricity distribution.

Power Through Partnership

Established in 2013, Power Africa focuses specifically on “ending energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.” By 2030, it aims to generate 30,000 megawatts or more of clean, reliable energy and provide electricity access for 60 million homes and businesses throughout the region. Consistent with the AEF’s goals, it plans to achieve this by uniting governments, companies and financial institutions in partnerships that will help combat the African energy crisis and “enable African leaders to pave their own future.”

Currently, Power Africa has more than 170 private sector partners coordinating efforts to build the technology, infrastructure and investments needed to deliver sustainable, reliable clean energy to sub-Saharan African communities. Simultaneously, the program is working with governments throughout the region to implement power sector reforms that are critical for resolving Africa’s energy crisis.

Furthermore, Power Africa is advancing gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa by promoting women’s involvement across all spheres of the energy sector, from policy-making to private companies to power generation plants. It emphasizes adopting gender inclusion policies, offers women opportunities for education and technical training and provides leadership training to support women’s advancement in the field.

Empowerment for the Future

So far, Power Africa has enabled more than 172 million people in sub-Saharan Africa to gain reliable electricity access, thereby contributing to alleviating Africa’s energy crisis. The new initiative will provide an additional “10 million on- and off-grid connections” that will benefit around 50 million people, allowing households and businesses across the region to gain access to better, cleaner, more reliable electricity.

Significantly, this comes with positive environmental and economic impacts. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, off-grid, or stand-alone, systems employ “a combination of techniques and technologies” to lower energy consumption and costs in remote regions where connecting to the grid is not economically feasible. With an additional $4.7 billion in public and private investments slated to develop infrastructure for a further 1,227 megawatts of clean energy generation and 1,500 km of transmission lines in sub-Saharan Africa, economic and environmental reform is on the horizon.

Looking Ahead

Since its inception, the Africa Energy Forum has opened discussion on topics including mining, pipeline projects, renewable energy, electricity trading and hydrogen power plants — an industry and a solution that has been gaining global attention and becoming increasingly prevalent in Africa. By providing space and funding to advance such solutions, Power Africa and AEF are making vital progress in combating Africa’s energy crisis while creating new diplomatic, infrastructural and business opportunities that will ensure future economic and environmental prosperity.

– Lucy Cosme Vera
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Electrify Senegal
Poverty ran at more than 36% in Senegal in 2022. But regardless of this fact, the nation actually has a rather high rate of electrification at nearly 80%, which is one of the highest in Africa. These high electrification rates however mask large disparities across different geographical and income groups, made most evident by the rate of poverty. Here is some information about efforts to electrify Senegal.

The Situation

Senegal’s power generation is highly dependent on liquid fuels, with only 10% of power generation from other sources. The expensive nature of liquid fuels means that the Senegalese government must heavily subsidize electricity generation and yet Senegalese consumers still pay more costs for electricity than other African nations at 24 cents per kilowatt hour. For comparison, the average cost per kilowatt in Nigeria is 6 cents.

To address these issues, the Senegalese government has put in place the Emerging Senegal Plan which aims to diversify and modernize energy sources, as well as increase private sector involvement via relaxing some sector regulations. Several international aid programs support this plan and the wider effort to fully electrify Senegal, thereby posing unique business opportunities for foreign investors.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a U.S. government-led public-private partnership that aims to double electricity access in Africa, with Senegal being one of its focus countries, according to the International Trade Administration. The initiative aims to provide resources for companies operating in the Senegalese power sector and as a possible result, increase efficiency and innovation and bring costs down.

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

A key supporter of Power Africa is the MCC, which in 2018 signed the Senegal Power Compact worth $550 million with the Government of Senegal. The compact targets three areas: improving the transmission network, increasing electricity access in rural areas and improving the governance and financial viability of the sector, all of which could electrify Senegal to a much greater extent.

If achieved, this not only will address geographical inequality but also alleviate the financial burden on the Senegalese government, potentially freeing up finances to refocus on other important areas.

The World Bank

In 2022, the World Bank approved $150 million from the International Development Association (IDA) to increase electricity access to Senegalese households, businesses and public facilities. In practice, this will see 200,000 households connected to the grid, including 40,000 households that are deemed vulnerable or previously difficult to electrify. Around 700 businesses, 200 schools and 600 health facilities will also benefit.

Business Opportunities

Lucrative investment prospects for foreign investors cover several sub-sectors of the Senegalese power industry, including but not limited to gas technologies, new plant equipment, renewable energy, transmission equipment, smart grid technology, household solar panels and energy efficiency technology, according to International Trade Administration.

Renewable energy and related technology are particularly prominent areas for investment as the government has strongly committed to this area as a means to fully electrify Senegal.

International Trade Administration also predicted that the funding from the MCC Compact will create business and employment opportunities for construction, procurement and engineering companies in the building and deploying of new power-generating infrastructure. Furthermore, ensuring energy efficiency and determining environmental impacts will create opportunities for consulting firms.

Looking Ahead

The combination of government focus, international aid and business opportunities suggests that Senegal is in a great position to achieve more widespread, if not full, electrification. Despite a current high electricity supply rate, fully electrifying Senegal could drastically improve power access in more rural areas and as a result, reduce the high rate of over 36% poverty.

– Saul Gunn
Photo: Flickr

Low-Cost Batteries
The University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom (U.K.) has developed and tested a new low-cost battery that promises to reduce the production prices of current batteries by almost 70%. These new cheaper, low-carbon power batteries could make it easier to supply more homes in sub-Saharan Africa with electricity, as well as businesses and hospitals, currently in need of power.

Working alongside Scotland-based StorTera, the researchers found that the new battery could support infrastructures such as telecommunication towers and replace the current expensive fossil-fuel-powered batteries which are keeping them active. The two groups came together on this project following the supply of a grant from the U.K.’s Faraday Institution, which is part of the institution’s Transforming Energy Access (TEA) initiative.

The testing of the low-cost battery took place in the U.K. during the nationwide heatwave in 2022, in which temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, making the researchers confident that the batteries could withstand the hot temperatures in Africa.

No Change in Recent Years

Currently, more than 578 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity. An International Energy Agency (IEA) report estimated that there will be more than 600 million people without electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

Despite the increase in population, the IEA report showed that nearly 400 million people will gain electricity access in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa if they meet investments of $6 billion by 2030. According to the agency’s findings, the largest part of the continent which will see a lack of improvement in their access to electricity will be central Africa

Lack of electricity in sub-Saharan Africa has affected the countries’ national health care systems massively in recent years, as nearly 60% of the health care facilities do not have access to reliable electricity in order to power their refrigerators.

With no electricity, hospitals are unable to keep bags of blood, insulin and other medicines in their facilities, as safe refrigeration storage systems need electrical power. Similarly, there are no working MRI machines, x-ray scanners and heart rate monitors in most healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. These issues highlight the importance of the newly developed low-cost batteries.

Maternal and New Born Deaths

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the lack of electricity has a large effect on maternal women and children, as they both need constant care in health care facilities that have stable electrical power supply. More than 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or within the first month after birth. All of these are linked largely to the lack of power keeping health care facilities’ lighting and operating tables at a minimum.

Director of the Technical Division at the U.N.’s Population Fund (UNFPA) Dr. Julitta Onabanjo said “The death of any woman or young girl during pregnancy or childbirth is a serious violation of their human rights.”

WHO also revealed that there has not been much success in reducing these numbers since 2015, as last in 2022, there were nearly 290,000 maternal deaths, 1.9 million stillbirths and more than 2.3 million child deaths within the first month of being born.

Director of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health at WHO Dr. Anshu Banerjee, commented on the lack of progress saying “If we wish to see different results, we must do things differently. More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed now so that every woman and baby have the best chance of health and survival.”

Powering Up

Investments and initiatives such as Power Africa and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), are currently at the forefront of the battle to supply the whole of Africa with electricity. Power Africa established more than 18 million new power connections to homes in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. It also plans to add an additional 60 million power connections by 2030.

Similarly, in 2022, SEforALL in partnership with Power Africa and USAID guaranteed a two-year $1 million grant which supports African governments in providing electricity to the continent’s health care sector alone. This effort is also an attempt to provide more hospitals with power.

With the invention of new low-cost batteries, grants like these could have a better use to supply more buildings with electricity from the same amount of money, as the supply costs per building reduce substantially.

Power Africa’s coordinator Mark Carrato, commented on the initiative saying, “This grant supports stronger and more resilient health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa by accelerating the development and deployment of clean energy and sustainable investment in health facilities.”

Looking Ahead

Innovations like the low-cost battery developed by the University of Strathclyde in the U.K. offer a glimmer of hope for improving access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. By significantly reducing production prices, these batteries could pave the way for supplying more homes, businesses and hospitals with reliable power. Investments and initiatives like Power Africa and SEforALL are already working toward expanding electricity access, and with the introduction of affordable energy storage solutions, their impact can be amplified, leading to improved healthcare outcomes and a brighter future for the region.

– Sam Kalantzis
Photo: Flickr

Women in African energy
Energy and utility companies can play a significant role in financial growth and social progress within lower-income countries. Through employment and expansion of electricity access, these companies provide infrastructure crucial to development, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa with wide disparities in access. However, established gender inequalities have prevented women from obtaining the same opportunities as men within the energy sector. In partnership with African governments, USAID is sponsoring the Women in African Power Network, which promotes women in Africa’s energy industry and their equal opportunity to join the workforce.

Access to Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Approximately two-thirds of individuals in sub-Saharan Africa are without reliable electricity, according to USAID’s Power Africa. Limited access to power in sub-Saharan Africa has led to gender disparities because it poses a challenge to women’s health, employment and education. Access to electricity ensures safer childbirth procedures and allows for greater numbers of women to be employed or attend school. Another challenge to limited access to electricity is that women in sub-Saharan Africa frequently experience ill-health effects due to fuel-based electricity as they generally remain in the home for longer periods of time. Thus, many governments have begun to recognize the importance of including women in the implementation and decision-making of energy expansion initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gender and the Energy Sector

Studies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature occurred jointly with USAID and Power Africa in 2019, which found that women held only 6% of executive and leading roles in the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Women also comprised roughly 16% to 20% of the general power sector workforce.

USAID has stressed the importance of closing this gender gap. According to an article on its strategy to increase the number of women in Africa’s energy sector, the U.S. agency described the “strong correlation between gender diversity and a company’s financial performance.” When women enter leadership positions, this beneficial economic trend is even more pronounced: companies that ranked highest in gender diversity in administrative roles had 14% higher return on investment than other corporations. Due to gendered differences in energy usage, women have valuable perspectives as decision-makers and consumers that provide crucial insight into the design and execution of new energy technologies.

In response, governments are creating more inclusive frameworks to advance the recruitment of women in Africa’s energy sector. As of 2018, almost 75% of energy-planning frameworks address gender inequality and several recognize the capability of women to lead the energy sector in innovation, efficiency and problem-solving.

USAID and the Power Africa Campaign

As part of the Power Africa campaign devoted to bringing electricity to all in sub-Saharan Africa, USAID partnered with African governments and IUCN to launch the Women in African Power Network (WiAP) in 2015. WiAP empowers women in African energy companies through professional growth opportunities, skill development workshops and networking facilitation that encourages connections between women in the industry. These connections also facilitate important mentorship opportunities for those who wish to join the workforce or rise within its ranks. Regional networks such as Women in Rwandan Energy and Women in Renewable Energy Nigeria promote more focused conversations among women within specific nations or departments.

By fostering professional advancement opportunities, WiAP aims to increase the number of women employed in the energy sector and to empower women who already work within it. With the skill development and empowerment cultivated within the network, the USAID initiative is working to close the gender gap in the energy sector and stimulate the accompanying economic benefits.

Though there are considerable gender disparities in employment in the energy sector, governments and outside organizations have begun to implement policies and plans to promote the inclusion of women in Africa’s energy sector. The Women in African Power Network, a network that emerged under USAID’s Power Africa initiative, aims to establish women’s networking groups and to develop their professional skills. WiAP operates with the knowledge that women are critical to the energy industry as female leadership has historically correlated with economic and social development.

– Sarah Stolar
Photo: Flickr

DRC'S Energy Sector
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a population of 85 million. Of this number, only 9 percent have access to electricity. Decades of corruption and war are two reasons for poor electricity access and economic development in the Central African country. More than 95 percent of the total electricity comes from 2,542 MW (megawatts) of hydroelectric power. However, a potential capacity of up to 100,000 MW of hydroelectric power is in reach thanks to the Congo River. Investors were once disinterested in updating the Inga Dams located on the river. However, some are finally attempting to make use of the DRC’s massive hydroelectric potential. British firm Bboxx and Power Africa, an initiative that USAID launched, are working to expand the DRC’s energy sector to reach millions of Congolese.

The Massive Hydroelectric Power Potential of the Congo River

The rapids and many waterfalls provide the potential for expanding the Congo River’s hydroelectric power. About two million cubic feet of water flows from the river into the Atlantic Ocean every second during rainy seasons. This makes the river’s hydroelectric power a viable option to expand the lagging energy sector. Construction on the Inga I and Inga II dams on the Congo River finished in 1972 and 1982, respectively.

Construction on Inga III, however, has halted. Inga III’s establishment could help power 40 percent of Africa. Its hydroelectric power would equate to at least 40,000 MW, with some estimating more than 100,000 MW. The Grand Inga is the name of this $14 billion project. It has had a long history of delays due to foreign investors dropping out of the project for various reasons such as a lack of transparency from former DRC President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. If the development of the Grand Inga completed, the DRC could export power as well. The country could then become a major energy exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Completed Projects in the DRC

Zongo 2 is a hydroelectric plant on the Insiki River that feeds into the Congo River. Chinese company Sinohydro completed the dam in 2018 with the help of assistance through the Howard G. Buffet Foundation. It has a capacity of generating 150 MW and will generate $47 million of income annually. Currently, the DRC’s energy sector uses only about 2,500 MW of hydropower. However, projects such as Zongo 2 have proved that hydropower could benefit the country and surrounding countries in need of power. Zongo 2 might seem to be a small-scale project compared to the Inga III project. However, 150 MW could power more than 100,000 households.

Power Africa is an initiative to provide more than 30,000 MW of clean energy to 60 million homes and businesses. As part of its goal, Power Africa teamed with power company Virunga Sarl to expand hydropower facilities in the DRC. The Virunga region has eight potential hydropower sites. Two of these, the 13.8 MW Matebe and the .38 MW Mtwanga, are operational and located in North Kivu. The Mtwanga plant supports more than 400 jobs in the region. As of 2017, more than 4,000 customers were under Virunga Sarl’s grid. This included small- and medium-sized businesses, homes and social infrastructure. Virunga Sarl is also expanding to the Nyirigonga district of Goma, which has about 20,000 households without power.

The Potential of Congo’s Power Sector

In January 2020, British firm Bboxx signed a memorandum of understanding to bring clean energy to more than 10 million Congolese by 2024. Bboxx has already provided power to more than 200,000 households in the country. Power has transformed lives, granting access to services that were previously unreachable, such as health care and schooling. President Félix Tshisekedi said that his goal is to use “decentralized and renewable energy solutions as a foundation to improve the country’s electrification rate from 9 percent to 30 percent during my presidency.” For perspective, the length of the presidency in the DRC is five years, and Tshisekedi first took office in January 2019. The DRC’s energy sector is growing slowly, but the president’s massive goal could increase growth in the near future.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Electricity Coverage Rising in Africa
It 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.


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.


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.


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.


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 Initiative

Within 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