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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.
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) dropped its long awaited Electrify Africa Act of 2015. It's good news for US development, foreign, and commercial policy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas the last Congress was unable to get similar legislation over the finish line, we are hoping that this one will get the job done. There are three key reasons for why this is so important.
On Monday, Grant Shapps, the UK's Minister of State at the Department for International Development, kicked off DFID’s Energy Africa campaign at an event hosted by the Shell Foundation designed to help his team figure out how the UK government can invest its political clout and an initial £30 million ($46 million) to tackle rural energy poverty in Africa. Given solar’s limitations and these risks, how can we make sure that Energy Africa fulfils Minister Shapps’s ambitious brief?
A New York Times piece alleging a “sputtering” Power Africa in advance of President Obama’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia took us by surprise. To those of us who have been avidly following Power Africa and the continent’s long march toward universal electrification, it’s far too early to draw such negative conclusions on the initiative’s success—much less its future impact. Instead, the early signs are actually quite positive.
As late as 1930, only 1 in 10 rural Americans had access to electricity. In subsequent years, rapidly increasing power generation and growing the electrical grid across the country became major pillars of the American battle against domestic poverty and a foundation for decades of economic growth and wealth creation. Today, energy access is universal in the United States. Reliable and affordable electricity is considered a basic necessity of life, an indispensable input to almost every aspect of modern living.
That same transformation is possible today in large parts of the developing world, where lack of access to modern energy harms quality of life and constrains economic growth. A concerted policy effort by the United States could help unleash tremendous human and market potential around the world. Pushing to promote electricity generation and access could significantly contribute to doing good in developing countries — and doing well for the United States.
What does the 2016 election mean for America’s future position in the world? It’s likely too early to tell at this stage of the campaign cycle. Many of the early Republican contenders — such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker — have been relatively quiet on foreign policy issues or have focused almost exclusively on Iran, Israel, and Russia. That’s to be expected at this point. Yet, other candidates — like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — are already outlining a more comprehensive vision for advancing American interests.