WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill that will establish a strategic approach to affordable and reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa recently passed in Congress, after 297 House of Representative members voted in favor of the act.
The Electrify Africa Act will make it U.S. policy to encourage access to electricity in the region. Currently, 589 million people -68 percent of the population- lack access to electricity, especially in rural areas. Further, around 30 African counties continue to face rampant power shortages. Without electricity, these people are deprived of adequate education, healthcare, and other basic necessities.
According to African business leaders, lack of affordable, reliable power is one of the most significant hindrances to achieving economic growth, restricting overall growth in the region by an estimated two-to-five percent annually.
“Unlocking the constraint on African economic growth means a continent less reliant on aid,” said Republican Representative Ed Royce of California. “There is every reason to support efforts that encourage economic independence.”
In addition to economic growth, Royce cited the importance of the bill to counter China’s growing influence in Africa, especially since the country has become the single largest investor in the region. Their commercial and strategic influences are particularly on the rise after the country spent $2 billion in support of African energy projects.
Besides competing with Chinese interests, the act will also benefit the U.S. by helping to expand trade networks with African nations.
“The United States has economic and national security interests in the development of the African continent,” Royce said. “This bill sets out a comprehensive, sustainable, market-based plan to bring close to 600 million Africans out of the dark and into the global economy, benefiting American businesses and workers at the same time.”
Without access to electricity, it is impossible for communities to escape poverty and achieve development goals. Children need electricity at night to complete their schoolwork; health clinics need electricity to operate and refrigerate vital medicines and other supplies.
“Today, the House of Representatives showed that we can rise above partisanship and improve the lives of millions of people, especially children, whose lives will be changed by what we did today,” said Democrat rep. Karen Bass of California. “Working together, we have crafted legislation that is a long-term strategy that will focus not only on building more power plants, but also on increasing African government accountability and transparency, improving regulatory environments, and increasing access to electricity in rural and poor communities.”
Bass also noted how the bill will support small, renewable energy projects, resulting in at least 50 million Africans gaining access to electricity for the first time in their lives by 2020. Since the majority of people who lack energy live in rural areas, the bill emphasizes the importance of innovative, renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal energy to improve access.
While the bill has the potential to transform the lives of billions of people in the region, it also ensures that once passed, it will be at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Before the Electrify Africa Act can enter into law, it must first be passed by the Senate and then signed by the President. I urge you to call or email your Senate members and encourage them to support an initiative that will help tap into a region with the utmost economic potential. Show Congress the light, and help us bring electricity to Africa.