Energy poverty is one of the most significant challenges facing Africa today. Seventy percent of Sub-Saharan Africans – and 85 percent of those living rural areas – are currently living without access to electricity.
Pervasive energy poverty undermines economic growth and development goals in health, education, and institution-building across the continent. Businesses have repeatedly cited the lack of reliable energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa as a more significant impediment to doing business than corruption, access to capital, and other challenges. More than 90 million schoolchildren across the continent lack access to this basic educational resource and 30 percent of health facilities are without electricity. Toxic fumes from kerosene – the chemical used to light homes – lead to more than 3 million deaths per year, more than HIV/AIDs and malaria combined.
The Power Africa initiative, launched by President Obama in June 2013, seeks to double the number of individuals with access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa by producing at least 10,000 megawatts of more efficient, cost effective, and sustainable electricity generation capacity on the continent. By 2020, it aims to increase electricity access for at least 20 million new households and commercial entities, enhance the energy resource management capabilities of partner countries, and increase regional cross-border energy trade.
To achieve these goals, the U.S. government and private sector have made approximately $20 billion in commitments to expanding energy access and generation across Sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years, especially in the six Power Africa focus countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
Senator Coons, chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, will chair a hearing on Thursday to examine questions surrounding Power Africa’s scope, implementation and sustainability. The hearing will feature testimony from witnesses leading Power Africa’s implementation, including USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast, OPIC Executive Vice President Mimi Alemayehou, and Ex-Im Africa Director Rick Angiuoni. Additional witnesses include Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power; Del Renigar, Senior Council for Global Government Affairs Policy for General Electric; and Tom Hart, U.S. Executive Director of the ONE Campaign. Their testimony will help to inform the Foreign Relations Committee’s future consideration of legislation to provide congressional authorization for Power Africa.
The hearing will be held Thursday, March 27 at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Room, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Click here to view a live webcast of the hearing.
Senator Coons questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about funding for the Power Africa initiative at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations earlier this month. Click here to watch their exchange.