SEATTLE — The Power Africa Initiative was proposed by President Obama in 2013 to encourage the U.S. to focus on providing access to electricity to millions in sub-Saharan Africa. It has recently secured a boost of more than $1 billion in commitments.
The $1 billion in potential deals will continue to help fund regional infrastructure facilities, risk insurance and renewable power projects in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tanzania.
As of now, the Power Africa Initiative has mobilized more than $52 billion in additional commitments including more than $40 billion from the private sector. Moreover, Power Africa is tracking more than 500 deals across the continent with the assistance and coordination of USAID.
The program, which tripled its 2014 goal to provide 30,000 megawatts of power and build 60 million connections by 2030, targets private investors in order to develop partnerships that will enable culmination of potential electricity projects.
President Obama stated in 2013, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by and 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 plugs Africa into the grid of the global economy.”
Currently, 620 million people in ub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Electricity is a significant stimulant in economic growth as it will help build businesses, improve access to education and public health.
A resident near Mutunguru and Virunga, power engineer Sammy Mwangi, stated that he believes electricity will bring specific benefits to shop owners, milk processors, and tea and coffee producers.
Moreover, according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-CA-39), many families use charcoal or other toxic fuel sources to provide power. Such sources have led to more deaths than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
The Power Africa Initiative is currently on track to meet its target by 2030. With the assistance of the Electrify Africa Act, a new bill enacted into law in February 2016, the U.S. will be able to add 20,000 MW to Africa by 2020. Loan guarantees rather than U.S. federal funds will be used to help achieve this goal.
With the Electrify Africa Act, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) argued that progress is possible both in Africa and for the U.S. He said, through the plan, “we can make great strides in addressing African energy poverty and promote inclusive economic growth for communities in Africa and at home.”
– Priscilla Son