US House approves Obama’s plan to light Africa homes

What you need to know:

  • American conglomerate General Electric and the US African Development Foundation have already called for entries to the second round of the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge where 25 winners will be awarded $100,000 to implement their projects.

US legislators have passed a law that paves the way for the implementation of the Power Africa Initiative launched by President Barack Obama last year.

The Electrify Africa Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, will provide legal backing for the project which aims to install 20,000 megawatts of electricity in six African countries in order to increase access to power.

The six countries are Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana.

About 50 million people across all the countries involved are targeted under the project.

“With today’s passage of the Electrify Africa Act, millions in Africa are closer to having access to electricity in their homes, businesses, and hospitals,” said Representative Ed Royce, a Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“With this Bill we help African people and businesses reach their full potential at no additional cost to the US.”

The Bill still needs approval from the Senate, which is under the control of Obama’s Democratic Party.

The House approved the Act by 297-117, with 17 lawmakers not voting. Half of the Republican Party, which is the majority, voted against the Act with conservatives saying that Africa should not be a priority amid economic concerns at home. Only one Democrat in the House voted against.

American conglomerate General Electric and the US African Development Foundation have already called for entries to the second round of the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge where 25 winners will be awarded $100,000 to implement their projects.

The competition is part of the Power Africa Initiative, which seeks to encourage implementation of homegrown solutions to tackle the challenge of access to power in the continent.

Participants will be drawn from Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

The Electrify Africa Act had been held up for months as industry groups sought to loosen US restrictions that force the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to avoid investment in projects with intense greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

General Electric said that it supports renewable energy but that it is unrealistic to shun gas and other fossil fuels in Africa.

With some 550 million Africans lacking reliable power, Obama has identified electricity as the latest America’s initiative for the continent after his predecessor, George W. Bush launched and spearheaded efforts to tackle diseases including HIV/Aids.

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