The Electrify Africa Act, S. 2152, would require the President to establish a strategy to encourage sub-saharan African countries to provide access to sufficient reliable energy for their citizens. The bill specifies a goal of promoting first-time access to power for 50 million people in urban and rural areas by 2020.
The bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support and will be signed into law by the President.
####Electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa
According to the House Republicans, 70% of the population of sub-saharan Africa lacks access to electricity. This totals to about 600 million people. The Tony Elumelu Foundation wrote in support of the bill that a lack of electricity has reduced the growth of African businesses and contributed heavily to the spread of disease and to infant mortality rates. They also mentioned that roughly 90 million children attend school without electricity.
####The Power Africa Initiative
In 2013 President Obama launched the Power Africa Initiative to lend aid to sub-saharan African countries. Power Africa works with countries in several ways to promote sustainable energy, such as facilitating transactions with private corporations and help from other countries. They also send technical and financial advisors to assist at a local level, and seek off-grid solutions for remote communities. The initiative “includes the collective resources of the US Government, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Government of Sweden, the European Union, the African Union, the United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All, and more than 100 private companies.”
According to the Power Africa Overview, “The U.S. Government is committed to providing more than $7 billion in financial support, loan guarantees, and technical assistance. To date, Power Africa has leveraged more than $20 billion from private sector partners for new on and off-grid projects in sub-Saharan Africa, meaning that every dollar the U.S. Government is committing to Power Africa has already leveraged almost three dollars in private sector investment commitments.” The website also includes a list of supporting US government agencies and their contributions.
The Electrify Africa Act would preserve the Power Africa Initiative by making electricity in Africa a foreign policy priority.
####Support for the Bill
“Creating a favorable environment for private investment to bring reliable, affordable electricity to millions of people in Africa for the first time can be a real game changer in development throughout the region.” said bill sponsor Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) in a press release.
Many advocacy organizations celebrated passage of the bill, including the Tony Elumelu Foundation, ONE, and The Borgen Project.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Feb 9, 2016.
(This measure has not been amended since it was passed by the Senate on December 18, 2015. The summary of that version is repeated here.)
Electrify Africa Act of 2015
(Sec. 3) This bill states that it is U.S. policy to partner with the governments of sub-Saharan African countries, international financial institutions, and African regional economic communities, cooperatives, and private sectors to:
promote first-time access to power services for at least 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020; encourage the installation of at least 20,000 additional megawatts of electrical power in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020; promote reliable and affordable power in urban, rural, and under served areas; encourage necessary reforms to support electricity access projects and market-based power generation and distribution; promote policies to displace kerosene lighting with other technologies; promote an energy development strategy for sub-Saharan Africa that includes the use of oil, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal power; and promote the use of private financing and seek ways to remove barriers to private financing and assistance for projects, including through charitable organizations. (Sec. 4) The President shall: (1) establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa implement national power strategies and develop an appropriate mix of power solutions to provide access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power in order to reduce poverty and drive economic growth and job creation; and (2) ensure that the strategy remains responsive to local community concerns and technological innovation.
The President may establish an interagency working group to coordinate the activities of U.S. government departments and agencies involved in carrying out the strategy.
(Sec. 5) The U.S. Agency for International Development, the Trade and Development Agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation are urged to: (1) prioritize efforts and assistance for power projects and markets in sub-Saharan Africa; and (2) partner with other investors and local institutions, including private sector actors, to increase access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power.
(Sec. 6) The President should use U.S. influence at international bodies to advocate for:
increasing investment in power sector and electrification projects in sub-Saharan Africa, addressing energy needs of individuals and communities where electricity grid access is impractical or cost-prohibitive, enhancing private sector coordination, and assisting sub-Saharan African governments to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to investment. (Sec. 7) Within three years the President shall transmit a strategy progress report to Congress which includes information regarding: (1) U.S. programs supporting policy and legislative changes leading to increased power generation and access in sub-Saharan Africa, and (2) power projects receiving U.S. government support.