Power Africa—A Green Partnership


Cape Town. June 2013: President Obama declared undertaking the project Power Africa—promising to reach power to double the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa. At least 70% of these people lack access to power.

600 million people in Africa live without electricity, using unhealthy forms of energy such as diesel and wood to run livelihood and small factories. This is frustrating because Africa holds an enormous power potential from its immeasurable natural products and sits on a vast reserve of natural gas and oil. According to an International Energy Agency, the country is required to invest more than $300 billion to gain access to universal electricity by 2030. This is a huge burden for the developing economy.

President Obama initiated the project where the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) proposes $7 billion as financial assistance and a five-year free consultation to meet Africa’s energy demands. Private sectors, African governments, World Bank and African Development Bank also come forth and together they promise to add 10,000 megawatts (MW) of green energy to the existing grid. Primary focus falls mainly on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Mozambique and Uganda are next on the list.

The US grant comes from the government and a number of private sectors including USAID, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, U.S. Export-Import Bank, Millennium Challenge Corporation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and U.S. African Development Foundation. General Electric, Heirs Holdings, Symbion Power and another four companies also commit.

Power Africa is more than a mere electricity generation scheme. It bridges a long-term coordination of US support with its African Partners. It is likely to boost up private sector’s interest towards African energy generation. From meeting energy demands, the scheme intends to build clean and efficient energy sectors, harnessing what is plentiful and employing what is sustainable. It is more of a management of her natural resources to extract energy in a healthy way and distribute it among the people. Access to electricity has become a basic need now—providing electricity to schools, hospitals and businesses is vital to upgrade living standards. Africa affords to produce only 91MW/million people whereas the US does it to 3360!  All the effort of USAID is to neutralize the huge difference, creating jobs, improve life and empower Africa. “We are moving beyond the simple provision of assistance, foreign aid, to a new model of partnership between America and Africa,” President Obama had told the students at South Africa’s University of Cape Town. “A partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.”

A 10MW project in Tanzania and the 2000 MW geothermal project in Corbetti are two success stories. Addressing power takes years, from solving bureaucratic issues to government policies to implementing ideas and lastly the means to do so. 

The project also sparked controversy in the States. A Global Development analyst Ben Leo said, “It’s still too early to say whether Power Africa is meeting expectations, whether on the continent or in the U.S.”.

However, Obama’s dreams are farfetched. Nothing runs without the high inertia of permission and construction cost. It takes years for an energy project to bring fruitful results. Before that, people will probably not realize how green they have gone!

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