On first of February 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act. This act seeks to codify the work of the United States (U.S) Presidency initiative to power Africa and seeks to ensure its longevity. The bill was introduced into the United States House of Representatives during the 113th United States Congress. 

On first of February 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act. This act seeks to codify the work of the United States (U.S) Presidency initiative to power Africa and seeks to ensure its longevity. The bill was introduced into the United States House of Representatives during the 113th United States Congress. 

The U.S. Senate passed the Bill, which differs in details from Power Africa goals as first initiated in 2013. The bill sets targets at 50 million connections and 20,000 megawatts of generation. However, in when the initiative was announced, the ambitious goal was to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative was to channel collective efforts of Power Africa’s more than 120 public and private sector partners to fit together to achieve the ambitious goal of adding 30,000 megawatts (MW) and 60 million connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

The U.S. committed USD 7 billion to tackle the challenge that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. That initial commitment has leveraged about USD 43 billion dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners, according to the Power Africa Roadmap.

The guiding pillars highlighted in the Power Africa Road map include; 

Pillar 1: getting to 30,000 MW

Pillar 2: getting to 60 million connections

Pillar 3: unlocking energy sector potential 

The roadmap indicates that, to date, 13 projects expected to generate approximately 4,300 MW have already reached financial close. These projects include solar, wind, hydro, biomass, natural gas, and dual-fire natural gas/liquid fuel projects. Nearly half of the projects involve renewable sources, although the majority of the Mega Watt output involves natural gas from privatized assets in Nigeria 

The operation model adopted by Power Africa is based in a new model of development for infrastructure in Africa. They focus on supporting “first-of their-kind” transactions especially for renewable technologies that create pathways for future transactions to move forward without constant donor support. They first seek to prioritize unlocking and accelerating transactions by removing barriers and building a more investment-friendly enabling environment.

According to a paper published by the Brookings Institution, the U.S interests include;

The alleviation of energy poverty that would undermine economic development, fuelling political instability and the creation of failed states that will harbour enemies of the US and threaten their allies in Africa and elsewhere.

Another interest is that the US has a clear moral imperative to play a leading role in expanding energy access for hundreds of millions of people in Africa. Helping to lift people out of the energy poverty, creating dignified living conditions, and expanding economic opportunity consistent with their democratic values.

Finally, the energy trends offer trade and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses. This provides a major incentive for the private sector who seek to cash in from the opportunities presented. In the area of expanding electricity access, there is a large potential market for off-grid and mini-grid decentralized power solutions, especially in rural sub-Saharan Africa where electrification rates are well below the global average. In Kenya there are already companies like Power hive that already have a mini grid in operation in Kisii. 

In order to meet its 30,000-megawatt goal, Power Africa is looking for new deals and new areas of involvement. The initiative is likely to support natural gas and utility-scale solar expansion. It will also work to improve efficiency at existing power plants.

The majority of projects in the Power Africa pipeline, and certainly those that aren’t yet being tracked, are at an early stage in their development, so it seems obvious that an area of focus will be on early stage transaction support.  Project developers say it is also the area where donors and development finance institutions are needed most.

The project however, raises some concerns from the individuals already engaged in it. At the centre of these concerns is the question; Does Power Africa put people living in poverty and their needs front and centre or is it a business venture supported by the US government?

In the rush to achieve, the project standards may be of a low quality resulting in local people and landscapes suffering negative consequences from poorly designed or implemented development investments. Communities in Africa understand their needs and local contexts best, which is why the initiative and its partners must engage and work with communities at all stages: before a project begins and throughout its design and implementation.

Are the projects sustainable? Power Africa should make sure the initiative considers affordable and environmentally friendly approaches. Detailed project plans, financial information and development impact studies must be made publically available for scrutiny. The outcomes should then be studied to see if the initiative is meeting the needs of its targeted populations.

The Electrify Africa Act of 2013 (H.R. 2548) being a bill that would direct the US Presidency to establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as an initiative provides opportunities for both Africa and the US. 

 

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