WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), today reintroduced the bipartisan Electrify Africa Act with Senator Bob Corker, SFRC Chairman. With nearly 600 million Africans without electricity, this legislation, originally offered in the 113th Congress, will leverage public and private sector resources to extend electricity access throughout Africa, to help 50 million Africans with first-time access to electricity and to add 20,000 megawatts of electricity to the grid by 2020.
“Access to electricity remains one of the fundamental development challenges in Africa, with direct impacts on public health, education, and economic growth,” said Senator Cardin. “That’s why this bipartisan legislation draws upon American leadership and ingenuity to provide first-time electricity access to 50 million Africans by developing clean, affordable, and sustainable energy. By working with African governments to attract private sector investment and partnering with American firms that are on the cutting edge of the power solutions Africa seeks, we can make great strides in addressing African energy poverty and promote economic growth at home and abroad.”
The Electrify Africa Act is endorsed by the ONE Campaign, a global organization working to end extreme poverty by urging political leaders to increase investments in poverty-fighting programs in Africa. Senator Cardin was a proud partner with the ONE Campaign in his efforts to increase transparency in the oil, gas and mining industries, helping to lift the resource curse from countries in Africa and around the world with tremendous mining resources and extreme poverty.
“This bipartisan bill is a great example of how we can be smarter about how we invest our foreign assistance dollars,” Deidree Bennett of Rockville, a member of The ONE Campaign, said. “The lack of electricity in so much of sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most dangerous and persistent enemies in the fight against extreme poverty. Senator Cardin is a great leader on these issues and deserves our thanks for introducing this legislation.”
“We take for granted that our homes, our schools, and our hospitals here in Maryland have access to the electricity they need to operate, but energy poverty is a destructive force on the African continent. By helping Africans build and expand their electricity infrastructure, the United States can make huge strides in the fight against extreme poverty,” said Sharon Rudge of Baltimore, a member of The ONE Campaign and the Executive Director of Kenya Connect. “I’m proud that Senator Cardin has taken a leadership role on this issue, and I’m glad that he introduced this bill.”
The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The legislation includes the following components:
- Requires the President to create a comprehensive strategy for United States’ engagement with sub-Saharan Africa in developing a broad mix of power solutions to increase electricity access and reliability.
- Encourages the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), USAID, the U.S. Department of Treasury, World Bank, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and African Development Bank to prioritize loans, grants, and technical support that promote private investment in projects designed to increase electricity access and reliability.
- Authorizes OPIC to continue ongoing work through 2018 and provides limited additional authorities specifically for use on power projects in sub-Saharan Africa. These authorities for sub-Saharan Africa power projects include:
- Expedited procedures for small projects,
- Promoting partnerships between U.S. joint ventures and African partners to develop responsible electricity generation,
- Expanding lending for the purpose of encouraging investments in the power sector in Africa by U.S. investors,
- Facilitating the development of African power projects through currency guarantees for qualifying local banks.
- Creates a new inspector general for OPIC.
- Improves transparency at OPIC by requiring OPIC to publish the development effects of the Corporation’s investments in an accessible format.
- Requires the Comptroller General to submit to Congress a report on the effectiveness of OPIC’s efforts to promote investment in energy and infrastructure projects.