The Electrify Africa Act of 2013, awaiting committee approval in Congress, will help turn on the lights for millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Following President Obama’s Power Africa initiative announced earlier this month, which invests $16 billion in public and private funding to combat energy poverty in Africa, Congress is reviewing a bill that would officially make electrifying Africa a governmental policy. Co-sponsored by a bipartisan contingent led by Representatives Edward Royce (R - CA) and Elliot Engel (D - NY), the bill aims to provide 20,000 megawatts of electricity to 50 million people in Africa by 2020, which is double the amount proposed by Power Africa. Considering the U.S. Embassy spends $10,000 a day on electricity in Liberia--a pricetag few small African businesses could afford--the bill comes at just the right time.
Some highlights of the proposed legislation:
- Creates a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to assist sub-Saharan African countries to develop power solutions to alleviate energy poverty and drive economic growth.
- Empowers USAID to identify and prioritize loan and grant proposals that increase electricity access in Africa.
- Directs the Department of the Treasury to use its influence to encourage the World Bank and the African Development Bank to increase investments in electricity access.
- Requires OPIC to expedite and prioritize loan applications for investments in energy projects.
- Instructs the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to promote private sector investment with a focus on clean energy.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson applauds the across-the-aisle support of the bill stating:
[The bill] also demonstrate[s] the bipartisan appeal of market-oriented development policy. There is every reason for Republicans to support efforts that encourage economic independence, strengthen trading partners and compete with Chinese influence in a vital region.
At this time, a Senate version of the bill has yet to surface.