Letter from the Coordinator

“We have also opened a number of diplomatic missions, signed a range of bilateral agreements. These efforts leveraged large investment opportunities such as . . . the Power Africa Initiative, as well as opening new trade and investment opportunities for Kenya.” -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during his State of the Nation Address, March 2015

“We want to thank President Obama and Secretary Kerry, along with our other financial partners, for the opportunity to celebrate this landmark electricity-generating project under Power Africa” -- Yosef Abramowitz, President and co-founder of Gigawatt Global, a Power Africa partner, at the commissioning of the first utility scale solar project in East Africa, February 2015

By Andrew M. Herscowitz

As we near the two-year anniversary of the launch of Power Africa in June of this year, we think of all the viewpoints of sub-Saharan African government officials, African civil society leaders and our private sector partners, whether positive or critical, that have shaped how we are working to fulfill our mission of increasing new power generation in sub-Saharan Africa.

One year ago, at this time, the Power Africa team was primarily focused on six countries. But with President Obama’s announcement in August 2014 at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, our goals have now tripled, and thus we are expanding our efforts and operations across all of sub-Saharan Africa. Even the phrase “Power Africa” has changed in meaning; from being seen simply as a U.S. government initiative to an effort that now involves a host of multilateral organizations and over 100 partners. Some now refer to Power Africa more as a “movement” than as an initiative.

As I write this, most of the Power Africa team is busy making plans to crisscross all of sub-Saharan Africa to scope out new opportunities. In the coming months, we will continue to meet with Africa governments to discuss how to partner to increase the amount of electricity available. Power Africa officials will be asking one central question: “What can we do to work with you to increase energy access in your country?”

During the last 12 months, we have also added new resources to the Power Africa toolbox, broadened our scope, and ensured that all our partners are working together to find solutions to move critical power projects through financial closure and commissioning.

Take for instance an innovative game-changing program called the U.S. African Clean Energy Finance program or “ACEF” for short. The resource, funded by the State Department and the President’s Global Climate Change Initiative, and undertaken by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), has already played a significant role in contributing to some of Power Africa’s successful expansion efforts. In this newsletter, we highlight OPIC’s pioneering efforts using the ACEF grant mechanism to bring East Africa’s first ever grid-connected, utility-scale solar energy facility to full operation in Rwanda.

There are other visible and concrete signs of Power Africa’s expansion process already paying dividends. Elsewhere in this newsletter, you can read how USTDA recently signed its first-ever grant in Burundi to support a solar project that could increase the country’s energy supply by 15 percent. Furthermore, in Malawi, USTDA just signed a feasibility study grant for a 15 megawatt hydropower project.

In addition, the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program is addressing the challenge of negotiating commercial contracts in sub-Saharan Africa with the release of its “Understanding Power Purchase Agreements.” A combined team of US government and private sector lawyers and African government officials wrote the entire 200-page handbook in just five days because they were so enthusiastic about the impact that it could have in making deals move more quickly. The handbook is a valuable tool for African governments as they look to sign more commercial contracts in their energy sectors.

That focus and concentration is emblematic of what Power Africa is doing across all of sub-Saharan Africa. We have no choice given that energy poverty is a major barrier to promoting economic growth and prevents millions of people from emerging from poverty. Power Africa is committed to supporting African governments in their efforts to advancing the game-changing reforms necessary to attract the investment and projects that will light the continent.


Andrew M. Herscowitz
Coordinator for Power Africa and Trade Africa