The Huffington Post reported that some 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa – or two-thirds of the region’s population – have no access to modern energy service. In rural communities, it can be as high as 85%.

Combined with intermittent and unreliable power supply, Africa is known as the dark continent.

The human cost of work productivity due to the lack of access to electricity cannot be underestimated. Africa will continue to lag behind other continents in global competitiveness and economic growth if its population lacks adequate access to power, threatening any significant economic progress.

The lack of access to energy significantly impacts African young professionals. Yet, increasing energy access has the potential to boost sustainable development and growth as well as build human capital on the African continent. Simply put, energy access allows people to live a better life. Without electricity, entrepreneurs are not able to gain access to market information and technologies to expand their businesses; worker productivity and health care markedly drop without health care clinics and hospitals equipped with modern medical technologies and services; and schools are not able to prepare students for a knowledge-based economy.

Launched in June 2013, President Barack Obama’s “Power Africa” hopes to bring reliable, sustainable energy to millions in sub-Saharan Africa by addressing gaps in the continent’s energy sector. The new U.S. initiative will commit $7 billion over the next five years to support the energy needs of six African countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

For more information on Power Africa, visit African Utility Week in May and hear from Andrew Herschowitz, Power Africa co-ordinator, and AUW keynote speaker.