The act is part of the president’s flagship Power Africa scheme, an initiative to improve access to electricity through public-private partnerships. It has been up for approval by Congress for nearly two years. African governments, development partners, and the private sector are all involved in making the efforts reality.
The legislation would “improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California said in a statement. It would also “promote the development of affordable and reliable energy,” he added.
Experts estimate that it will cost $835 billion to connect the entire continent’s population to electricity by 2030, with a commitment by the Obama administration of $7 billion over time. Another $43 billion is being supplied via investment pledged from public and private partners.
Through the plan, “we can make great strides in addressing African energy poverty and promote inclusive economic growth for communities in Africa and at home,” Senate Democrat Ben Cardin said.
Other supporters of the legislation have echoed those sentiments, adding that the measures would greatly benefit the world at large.
“It is a direct response to the fact that today 600 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa—that is 70% of the population—do not have access to reliable electricity,” said Royce in a recent interview on the initiative.
Royce, a Republican, has worked with Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and others to push the legislation through both the House and the Senate since 2014.
Royce also indicated that the lack of electricity drives families in sub-Saharan Africa to use toxic fuels like charcoal instead and the high cost of energy in the region makes producing goods for export almost impossible. He reiterated that it is the United States’ interest to help Africa become one of the world’s great trading partners.