President Barrack Obama has signed into law the Power Africa deal a move aimed at expanding electricity to millions of households in sub-Saharan Africa. This measure has been widely supported as it is a game-changer in saving lives and accelerating growth on the continent.
The Electrify Africa Act leverages partnerships with the private sector in order to bring first-time electricity access to about 50 million people who live in undeserved parts of Africa. The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives and Senate.
The initiative is set to use a system of loan guarantees since no new US federal funds have been allocated for the project. The loan will be used to add 20,000 megawatts of electricity to the continent’s grid by 2020.
The supporters of the bill argue that access to power is a fundamental development challenge long experienced in Africa and a boost to it will therefore rekindle economic growth and improve access to education and public health.
“It is a huge milestone for business start-ups that have to close at dark and for school children, who are often forced to study by dangerous, inefficient kerosene lamps,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce.
He added that too many families always end up relying on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources which emit fumes that lead to more deaths than the dreaded HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
The law aims to build on a “Power Africa” initiative that Obama majorly promoted during a trip to Kenya in July. It would see the investment of about $7bn in US funds, largely financed through the US Export-Import Bank, in a bid to create 30,000 megawatts of clean energy generation in Africa.
Senate Democrat Ben Cardin said through the plan, they can make even greater strides in addressing African energy poverty and promote inclusive economic growth for African communities and even those at home.