Four US lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation to promote access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. The bill establishes a US strategy to support affordable and reliable electricity, which they say is a must in order to improve economic growth, health and education in Africa.
Tom Hart, executive director of the nonpartisan, anti-poverty ONE organization in the US, applauded the legislation and said improving energy access in Africa was essential, reports Voice of America.
“Seven out of 10 people in Africa have no access to electricity, and in some rural areas it’s nine out of 10,” he said. Imagine what it would be like, he said, to be unable to refrigerate a vaccine or study for an exam after dark, or to have to run a business without a steady energy supply.
Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House Africa sub-committee was one of the sponsors of the bill, stated that he and many other people often take such activities for granted.
What the legislation aims to achieve
This energy bill would make it more likely that millions of Africans can achieve the modern health and economic benefits of the 21st century.
Hart explained that: “The first goal is to get 50 million people in the continent of Africa access to electricity for the first time. We are also trying to get at least 20,000 megawatts of new power on the continent. And that’s distributed both in the urban and rural areas.”
He also stated that President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative has similar goals and that the four lawmakers’ bill and Obama’s initiative would complement each other.
Hart said: “The bill will make permanent the president’s initiative. We don’t want to see this very good initiative from the president go away when he leaves office. Presidential initiatives and leadership are critical, but equally important to making sure that it lasts a long time and is successful is having both Republicans and Democrats on board, and that’s what’s been achieved through the introduction of this legislation.”
Hart said the electricity bill is also a complement to AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
“You can’t conduct trade unless products are made, and the lack of access to electricity is a major impediment to Africa’s trade with the world”, he concluded.