President Barack Obama has passed a law encouraging public-private partnerships to help bring electricity to 50m people in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Electrify Africa Act states that the United States will partner and consult with governments of sub-Saharan counties as well as international financial institutions, the private sector and co-operatives, to promote first time access to power and power services for 50m people by 2020.
The law also calls for an analysis of existing mechanisms to promote commercialisation of electric service through distribution service providers, including co-operatives, to consumers.
The US government will also look at current reforms being undertaken by countries in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure the long-term economic viability of power projects, increase access to power and promote policies to encourage the private sector and co-operatives to invest in power generation.
The National Rural Electric Co-operative Association (NRECA), which represents more than 900 rural electric co-operatives, welcomed the new bill. “We are celebrating this achievement with all our members, because our domestic and international work has always focused on power distribution, and making it possible for people to have direct access to electricity,” said NRECA Interim chief executive, Jeffrey Connor.
“This new law makes it possible to have a significant impact on the lives of millions, and we are proud to be part of this worthwhile effort to bring power to Sub-Saharan Africa,” he added.
NRECA started a programme to bring electricity to rural residents in developing countries during the Kennedy Administration. Since 1962 the organisation’s affiliate, NRECA International, has helped provide electricity to more than 110m people in 43 countries.
“African leaders increasingly recognise that access to reliable and affordable electricity is critical to stimulate local income generation and overall economic growth,” said Dan Waddle, NRECA International senior vice president. “Everyone benefits from unlocking the potential of peri-urban and rural communities in Africa, which is not possible without electrification.”
NRECA International is currently working on electrification projects in Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.