08 February 2016, Washington — President Barack Obama is close to signing into law a Bill that would mean more United States government involvement in helping to provide electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.
“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,” House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California said last week.
The Bill will provide a framework for a major public-private partnership between the US and sub-Saharan African countries to help millions of people gain access to reliable electricity. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature on the Electrify Africa Act.
During debate on the Bill on the House floor last week members from both major political parties pointed out that without reliable electricity, millions of people in Africa cannot use tools necessary for modern life, such as lights, cellphones and computers. They cannot refrigerate foods or medicines.
Royce said 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.
Royce also said 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.
Royce, a Republican, 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.
* Sam Okwakol – East African Business Week