US Congress passes ‘Electrify Africa Act’
By admin February 9, 2016


In a groundbreaking achievement to bring more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa access to reliable, modern energy, last week, the United States House of Representatives passed the Electrify Africa Act, following nearly two years of unsuccessfully attempts to pass the measure in both chambers.

The bill aims to build a framework rested upon a substantial mix of public-private partnership between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries to help millions of African electrify their homes, schools and communities for the very first time.  Moreover it will require the US government to construct multi-year strategies to help governments across sub-Saharan Africa to implement national energy solutions, but this time, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the next chapter of sustainable social and economic development.

As the bill waits to be signed into law by US President Barack Obama, the uphill battle to deliver modern electricity to some of the darkest regions in the world was not an easy one. Despite its undeniable impact on human well being, the issue had gone through a bureaucratic tunnel after Congressmen Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in June 2013.  It was a close call as the bill nearly had 120 bipartisan co-sponsors, even passing through the House in May 2104 by a vote of 297-117, only to be defeated by time as the clock ran out on the 133th Congress, according to Center for Global Development.


Since 2013, momentum had been building when Obama established an ambitious Power Africa Initiative, providing first-time access to adequate, reliable electricity to nearly 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.  The current legislation will facilitate the realization of many of the key deliverables in the initiative by creating a favorable environment for private investment in the continent to promote energy solutions and improve energy efficiency.

You may be wondering how big the energy crisis in sub-Saharan Africa actually is. In a report spotlighted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) Africa Energy Outlook, more than 630 million people in the continent (two-thirds of the population) live without electricity. It no longer remains a problem reflecting our global energy system, but what many experts and sub-Saharan governments are now spelling out as an “energy poverty crisis” ­– and one that is crippling the growing needs and aspirations of its people and economy.

House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a key figure in pushing for the legislation, celebrated the passage last week.

“It is a direct response to the fact that today, 600 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa — that is 70 per cent of the population — do not have access to reliable electricity,” he said.

It’s a shame that in 2016 1.3 billion people are without access to unbridled 21st century convenience, but with first steps taken to address the issue, we may see the future more brighter tomorrow than we do today.


For more information

Only President Barack Obama’s signature stands between Sh4.4tr in power projects and 600m people in darkness

Corker’s Electrify Africa Act passes Congress; officials expect Obama to sign it into law

We did it: The Electrify Africa Act PASSED! – ONE


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