Bringing Electricity to Africa's Underserved


Lack of inexpensive, reliable energy delivery is one of the chief obstacles to growth and development in much of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Yet today, nearly seventy percent of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. This, despite the fact that the region has tremendous energy resources, ranging from geothermal, solar, wind and hydro power to significant reserves of natural gas.

That is why last year, President Barack Obama announced Power Africa – a public-private initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, that will significantly increase generation and distribution of power in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“In the 16 months since its launch, Power Africa’s partnerships with African governments, private investors, other donors, and developers have already begun to bring benefits to the people of Africa,” said USAID’s Eric Postel, Assistant to the Administrator for Africa.

The Power Africa initiative helps governments identify the reasons why projects to improve electricity generation and distribution are lagging, and works with them to remove the obstacles as they are identified. Power Africa also works with the private sector to help companies invest in power generation and distribution.

“Power Africa has already helped to financially close deals that will generate more than 3,000 Megawats, which has the potential to provide power for more than 5 million African homes, service providers, and businesses,” said Mr. Postel.

Generating sufficient power is one part of the equation. Delivering it to those who need it is another. Only 18.3 percent of people living in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, compared to 55.5 percent of urban dwellers.

That is why Power Africa launched Beyond the Grid, a competition for innovative solutions that develop, scale-up or extend the use of proven technologies for off-grid energy.

“Today, 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity. Hospitals cannot function optimally. Businesses cannot open and children cannot read after dark. Food rots before it makes it to market,” said Mr. Postel. “But it does not have to be this way. Together with our partners in [the U.S.] Congress, Africa, other donor nations, and private businesses, Power Africa is working to greatly increase access to reliable, cleaner energy in Africa.”