“Electrify Africa Act” Passed by US Congress

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U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill known as “Electrify Africa Act” that will enable many Sub-Saharan African countries including Liberia to have access to reliable electricity.

The bill was passed on Monday, February 1and it is being sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill when signed by the President will provide a framework for public-private partnership between the United States and Sub-Saharan African countries through which about 600 million people on the continent will have access to affordable and reliable electricity.

According to VOA, “House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California said the Electrify Africa Act seeks to address the massive electricity shortage that affects the everyday lives of millions of people.”

“It is a direct response to the fact that today 600 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa — that is 70 percent of the population — do not have access to reliable electricity,” he said.

Royce is a Republican, and he has worked with ranking Democratic member Eliot Engel of New York and others to push the legislation through both the House and the Senate since 2014.

The bill directs the president to establish a multi-year strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa in implementing national power strategies with a mix of energy solutions, including renewable energy sources. Obama and the ambassadors from 35 African countries support the partnership.

According to the VOA, during the debate on the bill on Monday, members from both major political parties pointed out that without reliable electricity, millions of Africans cannot use tools necessary for modern life, such as lights, cell phones, computers, refrigerated foods or medicines.

Congressman Royce indicated that the lack of electricity drives some families in sub-Saharan Africa to use charcoal and other toxic fuels, which cause more deaths than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

He also noted that the high cost of energy in sub-Saharan Africa makes producing goods for export almost impossible, and that it is the United States’ interest to help Africa become one of the world’s great trading partners.

Democratic Representative Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania consented in this way, “Mr. Speaker, sometimes the right thing to do is also in our strategic interest as a country.”

It may be recalled that in 2013, President Obama outlined a Power Africa Initiative, which aims to grant first-time access to electricity to 50 million people by the year 2020.

The Electrify Africa Act will therefore help make that goal a reality by providing a framework for companies to invest in promoting energy solutions in Africa — without costing U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Upon outlining plan for investment in electricity in Africa, Liberia was among those countries named to be the first beneficiaries.

Also in 2014 President Obama hosted the US-Africa Leaders Summit where he stressed the significance of U.S. making business in Africa considering the potential for business on the continent.

During that summit, US$33 billion was pronounced to be invested in the economy of Africa, and the President called on US businesses not to waste any time but to begin strategizing to make quick and prompt investments.

Responding to President Obama’s desire for investment in Africa, African billionaire Aliko Dangote in an interview with journalists including one from the Daily Observer underscored electricity as one of the impediments to business on the continent.

Mr. Dangote also mentioned the lack of roads and difficulty encountered in traveling to other African countries as other impediments.

Joaquin Sendolo contributed to this report.

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