Washington (May 12, 2023) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power urging the Agency to strengthen its commitment to Power Africa, an initiative convening federal resources and private efforts to accelerate the electrification of communities across sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2021, the Biden administration has invested $193 million in Power Africa to support sub-Saharan Africa’s energy transition, with the aim of achieving energy security and connectivity for 60 million new households and businesses in the region by 2030. In his letter, Senator Markey underscored the need for USAID to prioritize accountability, transparency, and the long-term reliability of its financed projects and ensure that energy investments supported by Power Africa deliver on the promise of a cleaner, sustainable grid in the region.
The initiative’s implementation has raised concerns, following reports that Power Africa’s published results convey greater impact than the program has actually demonstrated. For example, over the course of Power Africa’s first four years in operation, USAID reported a total of more than 10 million electrical connections in the region, despite nearly 80 percent of those recipients only receiving hand-held solar lanterns, which have limited utility and longevity. Furthermore, Power Africa counted megawatts that were foreseen when deals were made, instead of counting real power generated, and has reported projects that were envisioned but never built.
“[Power Africa] can play a key role in the fight against climate change, to which many African countries are especially vulnerable,” Senator Markey wrote in his letter to Administrator Power. “As a supporter of both Power Africa and the global commitment to combatting climate change, I want to ensure that the program succeeds.”
“Despite these reported achievements, concerning questions remain regarding the validity of USAID’s methods for describing its successes with regard to power generation, transmission, and connection projects that Power Africa supports or brings to a ‘financial close,’” the letter continued. “[These] transparency, accountability, and intervention measures are vital to ensuring that Power Africa investments result in cleaner, sustainable power generation and transmission.”
Senator Markey requested USAID answer his questions—including those regarding the Agency’s methodology for the tracking of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, its monitoring of progress and continuity of financed projects, and its intent to finance any current or planned fossil-fuel projects—by June 2, 2023.