Electrify Africa, Energize Africa and Power Africa: Partnering With Africa for the Long Run
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Monday, 30 June, was the first year anniversary of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the president’s signature initiative for the continent which seeks to expand electricity to address poverty alleviation and economic growth.
The shortage of energy in Africa obstructs progress in healthcare, education, food security, and all forms of industrial and commercial activity, impeding Africa’s economic development. By elevating the issue of energy poverty and launching a coordinated, strategic approach to tackling it, the US government has galvanized companies in-country and around the world to see the African power sector as a viable investment opportunity, and has brought private sector leadership and solutions to address Africa’s development needs. Already, Power Africa has succeeded in facilitating deals that will deliver nearly 3,000 megawatts of additional power in participating countries. Furthermore, its very existence has encouraged other African nations to initiate reforms within their power sectors, in anticipation of future opportunities to participate in power deals and partnerships.
To ensure continued momentum and expanded reach, legislation is needed to codify the expansion of access-to-electricity in Africa as a long-term development and foreign policy priority of the US government. In addition to the ‘Power Six,’ there are dozens more African countries eager to partner with the US to bring electricity to their citizens.
While there is much progress to celebrate, several challenges still exist. Insufficient infrastructure for power distribution not only threatens to waste valuable megawatts and slow the initiative’s progress, it endangers the existing power generation infrastructure. Furthermore, inadequate national regulatory frameworks constrain the operations of producers utilizing gas for power. Between these two issues, the benefits of our collective cooperation cannot be fully translated to increased power access.