Helping sub-Saharan Africa increase modern electricity access will save lives, boost education, alleviate extreme poverty and accelerate growth. Learn more about the Energize Africa Act of 2014 currently in the US Senate.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 589 million people do not have access to electricity. In 30 African countries, endemic power shortages, at all economic levels, are a way of life. The President and Congress are working with African leaders, civil society organizations, and the private sector to dramatically change this dire situation. We know energy access is one of the most urgent priorities for people in sub-Saharan Africa with one in five Africans citing infrastructure – including electricity – as their most pressing concern.
The lack of electricity impacts people’s lives in at least five major ways, with a disproportionately negative impact on girls and women:
Poor healthcare: In sub-Saharan Africa, 30% of health facilities do not have any electricity – they cannot store vaccines and lifesaving drugs, nor can they operate essential lifesaving medical equipment like incubators and x-ray machines.
Stifled Economic Growth: According to survey data of African businesses, reliable energy access is a bigger concern than corruption, access to capital, or sufficiently trained labor.
Toxic fumes: Each year, there are more than 3 million worldwide premature deaths from exposure to the toxic smoke of indoor open fires and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting. That’s more deaths than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
Limited or no education: 90 million children in sub-Saharan Africa attend schools that lack electricity. In many places, women and girls are forced to spend hours each day in the time-consuming task of hunting for fuel, often a key reason why girls spend less time in school than boys.
Lack of safety: Without streetlights, telephones or other means of communication, women and girls are particularly vulnerable after dark.
On June 30, 2013, President Obama announced a new $7 billion U.S. commitment to the energy sector in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The President’s Power Africa initiative is aimed at increasing electricity access by 20 million households and businesses and electricity generation by 10,000 megawatts over the next 5 years. His plan includes efforts to improve African energy governance systems and national energy plans, as well as investments from the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, USTDA and USAID. Power Africa will build on Africa’s enormous power potential, including oil and gas, and the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy.
Power Africa also includes $9 billion in commitments from the private sector, including General Electric, Heirs Holdings, Symbion Power, Harith General Partners, and Husk Power Systems.
The Energize Africa Act of 2014
On June 24, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported out S. 2508, the Energize Africa Act, introduced by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee. The bill is the Senate version of H.R. 2548, the Electrify Africa Act, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Engel (D-NY). H.R. 2548 passed the House of Representatives in May 2014, by a vote of 297-117.
Statement of U.S. Policy: S. 2508 declares that it is the policy of the United States to partner with the governments of sub-Saharan African countries, the private sector, and others to:
- Promote first-time electricity access for at least 50 million people by 2020;
- Encourage the installation of at least 20,000 additional megawatts of electrical power using a broad mix of energy options;
- Promote reliable, affordable and sustainable power in urban areas to promote economic growth and job creation;
- Promote financing to provide electrical service to rural and underserved populations;
- Encourage the necessary in-country reforms to make expansion of power access possible;
- Encourage reforms of power production, delivery and pricing, as well as regulatory reforms and transparency, to support long-term, market-based power-generation and distribution;
- Promote policies to displace kerosene lighting with other technologies; and
- Promote an all-of-the-above energy development strategy.
Coordinated U.S. Strategy and Creation of an African Power Advisory Group: S. 2508 requires the Administration to develop a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to achieve policy objectives in sub-Saharan Africa and creates an African Power Advisory Group made up of private-sector experts to advise on the development and implementation of the national strategy.
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC): Encourages OPIC to place a priority on supporting investment in the electricity sector in sub-Saharan Africa to:
- Maximize the number of people with new access to electricity;
- Improve the transmission and distribution of electricity;
- Provide reliable, low-cost electricity to people living in rural and urban communities;
- Consider energy needs of individuals where access to an electricity grid is impractical; and
- Reduce transmission and distribution losses and improve end-use efficiency.
Strengthens OPIC by extending its authorization for 5 years; encouraging small and medium sized enterprises and cooperative service providers to participate in investment activities; requires the publication of measurable development impacts of its investments; and other institutional reforms.
USAID: Encourages USAID to make loan guarantees to local African financial institutions to facilitate investment in power projects and encourages USAID to provide additional grants and technical support to countries in order to develop country and regional electricity policy plans, expand distribution of electricity to the poorest, and build regulatory capacity.
Other U.S. Government Agencies: Encourages the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. African Development Foundation, the Department of the Treasury to use the tools at their disposal to help meet U.S. policy.
Budgetary Impact: The Congressional Budget Office has not yet completed its estimate of the cost of S. 2508. However, enactment of similar legislation, the Electrify Africa Act, would save $86 million from 2014-2019 since OPIC generates revenue for the budget every year.