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Increasing Access to Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Last week, the President took an important step in an ambitious development agenda and signed the Electrify Africa Act of 2015.

2015 marked a pivotal year for global development – which saw world leaders adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which set out a vision and priorities for global development for the next 15 years, and reach a historic Agreement to Combat Climate Change.  These global agreements were reached at a time where we are seeing a growing bipartisan consensus in the United States around the importance of global development efforts, efforts to end extreme poverty and prioritize policies and investments that have long-term, sustainable and transformative impacts, including in the areas of health, food security and energy.

Recognizing that access to electricity represents the biggest obstacle to unlocking the full potential of Africa's economy and that of its people, in 2013, President Obama launched Power Africa, and laid out an ambitious goal to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.  Today, Power Africa comprises a diverse coalition of public and private sector partners who are committed to investing in Africa’s future and working tirelessly to deliver on our shared commitment to bring affordable, reliable, and sustainable power to the millions of people who currently lack access to electricity throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  The U.S. Government, the African Development Bank, the World Bank Group and the Governments of Sweden, the European Union, Norway, and the United Kingdom have committed to leverage substantial financial resources and technical expertise to expand Power Africa’s work across the continent.  During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, President Obama announced a renewed commitment to this initiative, and pledged a new level of $300 million in assistance per year to expand the reach of Power Africa across the continent in pursuit of a new, aggregate goal of 30,000 MW of additional electricity capacity and increasing electricity access by at least 60 million household and business connections.

Building on Power Africa’s vision and leadership, a number of new initiatives have emerged that seek to address Africa’s energy challenges and further accelerate progress towards our shared goal of expanding energy access across sub-Saharan Africa. We have also seen a growing coalition of countries who have made commitments to accelerate access to energy, including to scale up access to cleaner electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Power Africa has recently launched two new tools to help us meet these ambitions goals.  On January 28th, we launched the Power Africa Roadmap that lays out a concrete plan for how Power Africa’s more than 120 public and private sector partners, who collectively have committed more than $43 billion to the effort, will achieve President Obama’s ambitious vision of doubling access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. Power Africa also launched the Power Africa Tracking Tool (PATT), an iPhone app and web portal that allows for easy, real-time tracking of more than 26,000MW of power transactions across the continent.  The PATT provides previously unavailable data that will increase transparency and drive the competitiveness of African markets.

On February 8, President Obama signed into law the Electrify Africa Act of 2015, which aims to provide access to electricity to at least 50 million people and to add at least 20,000 megawatts (MW) of power across sub-Saharan Africa.  This legislation reaffirms bipartisan consensus around the tremendous untapped potential that exists on the African continent—both in terms of its natural resources and in the potential of its people—and reaffirms the goals articulated under President Obama’s Power Africa initiative. 

This legislation reaffirms the United States’ commitment to double access to electricity across sub-Saharan Africa, and shows our partners we are committed to taking steps forward to ensure that Power Africa extends well beyond the end of the Obama Administration.  Our work is far from over, but today, we carry that work forward with renewed confidence in our ability to deliver on our promise to the more than 600 million people in Africa who still lack access to electricity.