While the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has decreased from 52.2 percent in 1981 to 20.2 percent in 2010, poverty alleviation remains inconsistent across the globe.
East Asia experienced a significant reduction in the proportion of its population living on less than $1.25 a day, lowering its rate from 77.2 percent in 1981 to 12.5 percent in 2010. South Asia also saw an impressive reduction, decreasing its rate from 61.1 percent in 1981 to 31.0 percent in 2010.
Efforts to alleviate poverty have clearly succeeded in Asia, but progress in Africa lags significantly behind. Between 1981 and 2010, the proportion of those living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan decreased a mere 3 percent – from 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.
Today, 68 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population lacks access to electricity, and 30 African countries face frequent power shortages. 225 million people depend on health facilities that have no electricity. While USAID and African economies have experienced recent successes, the lack of access to reliable electricity is cited as the main constraint that hampers both growth and development.
Aid organizations have made significant progress in Africa in recent years, but their efforts can only go so far when large areas of the continent lack electricity. The Electrify Africa Act of 2013 seeks to provide affordable and reliable electricity to Africa in order to aid economic growth and decrease poverty rates.
Authored by several members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Africa Subcommittee, the Electrify Africa Act aims to “create a strategic approach to support affordable, reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa,” which will “unlock the potential for economic growth, job creation, improved health and education, and poverty reduction.”
If passed, the Electrify Africa Act will:
• Declare that it is the policy of the United States to encourage access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa;
• Require that the Administration create a comprehensive strategy to help increase electricity in sub-Saharan Africa;
• Encourage USAID to use existing tools like loan guarantees, partnerships and grants to increase electricity in sub-Saharan Africa;
• Direct the Treasury Department to persuade the World Bank and African Development
Bank to increase electrification investments in sub-Saharan Africa;
• Instruct the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to prioritize electrical sector investments in sub-Saharan Africa; and
• Call on the Trade and Development Agency to encourage broader private sector engagement in the sub-Saharan Africa electricity sector.
7 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa currently live without access to electricity, but this legislation will ensure that the United States employs a specific strategy to increase access to electricity at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Call your congressman to encourage their support of the Electrify Africa Act of 2013.
– Katie Bandera