U.S. Has ‘Unique Opportunity’ To Help Africa Implement Modern Energy Sources

“In my country, the West African nation of Liberia, living without power has become a way of life,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. She states, “This is why I was delighted when U.S. President Barack Obama put energy poverty at the center of his trip to Africa this summer” with “[h]is new initiative, called Power Africa, [which] aims to double electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by responsibly building on the continent’s potential in gas and oil as well as its huge potential to develop clean energy.” In addition, “Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member, have introduced the ‘Electrify Africa Act of 2013,’ a bill that would address some of the limitations of the Power Africa initiative and have the complementary goal of providing electricity access to more than 50 million people by installing 20,000 MW of energy capacity by 2020,” she continues.

“It is heartening to see Obama, Congress, the United Nations, and the World Bank focused on increasing energy access in sub-Saharan Africa,” she writes, adding, “They are keenly aware that without a reliable power supply, patients are treated in under-equipped hospitals, vaccines requiring refrigeration can become unusable, students cannot study after dark, and routine business transactions are exceedingly difficult.” She notes, “Globally, at least 1.2 billion people — nearly a fifth of the planet — lives without access to electricity, according to the World Bank,” and she adds, “The highest concentration is in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 550 million people do not have electricity.” She states, “African leaders are doing their part, putting in place bold plans to increase energy access for our people and committing to responsibly harness our own energy resources,” adding, “Now, the United States has a unique opportunity to partner again with Africans as we work to bring modern energy access to the continent” (8/29).

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