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To become prosperous and globally competitive, emerging economies require reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for industry and households
Energy is essential for economic growth and the basis of modern lifestyles, yet more than a billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. For millions who may have some access, power is too unreliable or expensive to achieve real prosperity. Boosting generation and expanding access are top priorities for African governments and their partners, including through the US Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD research seeks to redefine what the world means by “modern energy” and to suggest ways to provide energy at scale for development to flourish.
In the twelve months to June 2016, nearly 1.3 million Kenyan households were connected to the grid for the first time. This impressive feat pushed Kenya’s national electricity connectivity rate to 55 percent from just 27 percent in 2013, one of the fastest connection increases recorded in the region. These latest connections illustrate the Kenyan government’s commitment to a goal of achieving universal energy access by 2020.
My family’s ancestral home in the village of Jakhan in India’s western state of Rajasthan exemplifies the challenges and opportunities of facilitating energy access in India. Though Rajasthan is perhaps the most densely populated desert on the planet, near Jakhan the population is spread more thinly, and electrification has been slow in coming. The dreams of people such as my grandparents, who wished to see central electricity access arrive at their doorstep, were unfortunately not met in time. My grandfather filed an application to have a grid connection reach his home in the 1970s. The connection came three decades after his passing. Today, over 300 million people still lack access to reliable centralized electricity in this nation of 1.2 billion people.
Aid agencies are investing more in energy projects than ever before, but will they succeed? Not if they ignore the key obstacle to progress: governments that choose the status quo over serious reforms.
We know very little about what a Trump administration will do about longstanding US efforts to combat global hunger, disease, and poverty. But here are five reasons Power Africa should appeal to a new White House team presumably focused on cutting waste and promoting business.
Energy is critical to human welfare, yet energy consumption in developing countries is extremely low relative to modern living standards. Conventional aid programs have invested in energy production with some success but also with many notable failures. This paper discusses how a distinctive approach to development aid—disbursing funds against improved outcomes—could make aid more effective in the energy sector. In particular, it explores the use of Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) to resolve perennial difficulties encountered by conventional aid programs in energy sector development.
Power Africa has barely gotten started and now faces a whole new administration, with its own ideas and its own priorities. The biggest risk to Power Africa is loss of momentum. As a progress check, an early analysis of the transactions pipeline, and input to the next White House, CGD assessed Power Africa along eight dimensions. Here’s a summary.
Power Africa has the potential to be transformative for millions of poor people and be the single biggest legacy in Africa for President Barack Obama. Observers now have roughly three years to reflect on the initiative: on what’s progressing well, what’s not, and where future risks may lie. While it is still too early to provide a complete analysis of outcomes, this report card provides a timely assessment at the close of this administration and an input to the next one. While the judgments of Power Africa are largely positive, the coming months will be crucial to keeping the effort on a positive trajectory.