In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a schoolgirl is introduced to Little Sun – her first solar-powered light – and the concept that she can hold power in the palm of her hand. / Merklit Mersha

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a schoolgirl is introduced to Little Sun – her first solar-powered light – and the concept that she can hold power in the palm of her hand. / Merklit Mersha

Imagine a world without light above a dim path at night or no wall outlet for charging your phone beside your bed. Unfortunately, a world without power is reality for two out of every three people in sub-Saharan Africa.

That is why President Obama launched Power Africa two years ago. He had a vision for bringing power to the 600 million sub-Saharan Africans who live without electricity by encouraging collaboration between leaders in energy, commercial lending, innovation, and trade. The private sector-led initiative aims to not only double access to electricity across sub-Saharan Africa, but also create opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

Since its launch, Power Africa has evolved into an effort that engages a host of multilateral organizations and over 100 private sector partners. In August of 2014, President Obama expanded Power Africa’s reach to all of sub-Saharan Africa and tripled the original goals. Power Africa plans to  generate 30,000 MW of new and cleaner power and increase electricity access with 60 million new connections.

When President Obama visits Kenya and Ethiopia this summer, he’ll find that the foundation for Power Africa’s exponential growth is underway. The Power Africa team and its international partners are working with citizens, entrepreneurs, private sector businesses, the public sector, and our government counterparts in African nations to further advance Africa’s energy sector.

This solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in the hills east of Kigali, Rwanda is the first utility-scale, grid-connected, commercial solar field in East Africa. The 8.5 MW, $23 million project increased Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6%. / Photo by Sameer Halai, SunFunder

This solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in the hills east of Kigali, Rwanda is the first utility-scale, grid-connected, commercial solar field in East Africa. The 8.5 MW, $23 million project increased Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6%. / Photo by Sameer Halai, SunFunder

Visualizing Power Africa

We see real change  — but, it’s not always easy to show the impact of a signed deal or additional megawatts of power added to a grid. That’s why we asked our partners to show the world what Power Africa looks like by sharing their favorite photos with us in a contest celebrating the project’s two year anniversary.

We asked our partners, our colleagues, and our implementers to answer a simple question with their photos: What does energy innovation look like?

The answers surprised even us. Each of the more than 60 photographs submitted revealed the creativity, vision and innovation that our partners are embracing to increase power access in Africa. This week we announced the eight winning photos of the Power Africa photo contest.

Impact through energy innovation, supported by the Power Africa Beyond the Grid initiative, empowers rural families in Tanzania to extend their productive day well beyond nightfall. / dLight

Impact through energy innovation, supported by the Power Africa Beyond the Grid initiative, empowers rural families in Tanzania to extend their productive day well beyond nightfall. / dLight

Hands-on exercise referring to manual, ASU-led VOCTEC program, all-women training Strathmore University, Nairobi April 2015. / Ambika Adhikar

Hands-on exercise referring to manual, ASU-led VOCTEC program, all-women training Strathmore University, Nairobi April 2015. / Ambika Adhikar

As revealed in the photo entries, access to electricity is more than just a signature on a dotted line when project developers close a deal for project financing. It’s the face of a girl as she holds her first solar lamp, it’s the handshake of two people agreeing to do things differently, it’s a classroom of women taking over an entire sector that was led by men for generations, and it’s a solar field built in a village recovering from genocide.

Whether fostering small-scale energy solutions through Beyond the Grid, early-stage financing, feasibility studies, or policy support, Power Africa is delivering diverse clean energy solutions and more importantly, opportunities for the future.

Over the next month, Africa’s energy challenges will be a popular topic of conversation among world leaders. Power Africa is a case study for how diverse partners can foster innovation and sustainable investment in Africa’s future — one watt at a time.

People, vision, and determination power this movement and we hope that other world leaders will follow our lead to bring a brighter tomorrow to Africa

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Andrew M. Herscowitz is the coordinator for President Barack Obama’s Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives. Follow Andrew @aherscowitz