Ideas to Action:

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In June 2013, President Obama announced a major new development initiative, which aims to double access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa. The first phase of the Power Africa Initiative focuses on adding more than 10,000 megawatts of “cleaner, more efficient generation capacity” in six partner countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania).  This should increase electricity access for at least 20 million households and commercial entities through on-grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions.  The US government will commit up to $7 billion over five years to this effort, while helping to mobilize more than $9 billion in private investment.  My colleague Todd Moss and I have warmly welcomed this new initiative while also flagging a few things to watch for and think about (see here, here, here, here, and here for examples). 

At roughly the same time, Congressman Royce (R-CA) and Congressman Engel (D-NY) co-introduced the Electrify Africa Act.  The proposed bipartisan bill would direct the President to establish a multi-year strategy for assisting African countries to develop an appropriate mix of power solutions for rural and urban residents.  The ultimate policy objective is to provide an additional 50 million Africans with access to reliable and affordable electricity.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also considering potential legislation aimed at promoting electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This Wednesday morning, CGD will host key government officials from OPIC, USAID, the MCC, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to examine a range of timely questions, such as:

  1. What has happened in the six months since the President’s announcement of the Power Africa Initiative?  What’s working and what’s not working?
  2. How is Power Africa helping to address the need for regulatory reforms in the partner countries?
  3. How is private investment being crowded in?  What are the most important impediments to greater investor activity?
  4. What is the outlook for the Electrify Africa Act?  How can it support the Administration’s efforts?
  5. What should we expect over the next 12 months?  And beyond that, what should we expect in terms of additional transactions and partner countries?

Please weigh in on whether or not these are the right questions.  What else do you want to know?  This is a unique opportunity to engage with officials who are on the frontlines of designing and implementing US policies and programs.  If you have thoughts or burning questions, please include them in the comments section below.  Or, you can tweet them to me at @leo_benjamin (please include #PowerAfrica too).  I will review all of the submissions before the event and try my best to raise as many of them as possible. 

And for those unable to join the live conversation, CGD plans to post the video recording afterwards.