Energy poverty is very personal to me. It was for that reason that I was honored to address the US Senate’s Sub-Committee on African Affairs last week and thank the US government on their efforts to bring electricity to the millions of people without reliable power in countries across the African continent.
As Chairman of Heirs Holdings – a Pan-African investment company which operates in strategic sectors of industry including banking, power, oil and gas, agribusiness, real estate and hospitality – I have a strong interest in ensuring that my country has reliable access to power.
I coined the term “Africapitalism” to describe our approach to business – our belief that long-term investment in key sectors, like power, can create economic prosperity and social wealth, benefitting investors and Africa’s development future. At its core, Africapitalism as an economic philosophy encourages practices that create and multiply value locally.
The problem is huge: 7 in 10 Africans don’t have access to reliable power. Yet we are a continent of entrepreneurs — some of the smartest in the world. But how many budding entrepreneurs can really succeed, and create more jobs, if they don’t have lights to power their small businesses, or the cost of electricity is more than 55 percent of their operating costs?
For that reason and many others, I’m delighted that the leadership of the United States is considering this issue at an important time when African citizens (from both the public and private spheres) are prioritizing the issue of electricity access and linking success in this area to the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of lasting economic prosperity.
President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act in the House of Representatives is a vitally important as they have galvanized the private sector in the US and other countries to examine the African power sector as an opportunity for viable investments.
Yet there is so much more to be done. I, like many other activists, policymakers and business leaders, hope that Congress will pass The Electrify Africa Act before the end of this session to secure the expansion of access to electricity in Africa as a development and foreign policy priority. I also hope that the US government begins to prioritize engagement with the African private sector as partners in African development.
No organization, company, or individual can do this alone. But together, we can ensure that we help deliver reliable first-time access to electricity to 50 million Africans by the year 2020. I can tell you first-hand that millions on the continent are asking for this.