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Q&A: How Power Africa is Investing in a Brighter Planet

The energy sector is the world’s largest source of carbon pollution – yet two out of three people in sub Saharan Africa lack access to electricity.  Power Africa – a partnership among African governments, the U.S. Government, the private sector, and the donor community – aims to double access to electricity in sub Saharan Africa.  Building cleaner, more climate-resilient power sectors that serve all people will require the inclusion and participation of all stakeholders – including those that have traditionally been sidelined from the energy industry.

In Africa alone, about 60 million homes and businesses are poised to access power for the first time in the coming years. President Obama launched Power Africa in 2013 to meet this need. On World Energy Day and every day, Power Africa is working to bring more affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern forms of energy to users once reliant on kerosene, diesel and disposable batteries.

In working toward the newly established Sustainable Development Goal on energy, Power Africa and USAID are ahead of the curve by pushing forward new models of development for clean energy. Our teams of experts on the ground are working to establish a better “enabling environment” where the legal, regulatory and financial frameworks clear the path for the energy sector to meet the demands of all customers.

In an interview, Power Africa Coordinator Andrew M. Herscowitz shares some insight into how we’re empowering the next generation of energy consumers.


Herscowitz_IMG_3295C_PAdams EWhat have been Power Africa’s greatest accomplishments since President Obama established the initiative two years ago?
Power Africa has become a global effort and has helped over 4,100 megawatts (MWs) of transactions reach financial close since 2013.

In a two-year period that’s an important accomplishment. Around the world, and even in the United States, it can take up to a decade for an energy project to be completed. With our African partners leading the way, we’re helping to reduce the legal, financial, and regulatory barriers that for too long have stood in the way of projects moving forward.

In August of 2014 President Obama tripled Power Africa’s goals 10,000 MW and 20 million connections to 30,000 MW and 60 million connections. More importantly though, the collaboration now includes more than 100 private sector partners.

How does Power Africa promote our mission of ending extreme poverty? How does this way of doing business reflect USAID’s new model of development?
Access to electricity is a critical part of ending extreme poverty around the world. The 600 million people in Africa who are “off-grid” spend a significant portion of their household income on kerosene for lighting, batteries for radios and paying someone to charge their mobile phone. This expenditure traps them in poverty by limiting their ability to invest in education and economic opportunities.

Power Africa is working with the private sector to deploy large scale electricity projects that will help expand grid connections, as well as with our Beyond the Grid partners, who are using innovative technologies and business models to provide electricity services in areas that are far from the grid. Instead of directly financing these projects and businesses, Power Africa encourages investment by offering loans, insurance and technical support.

Can you talk about a community that you visited that has been impacted by Power Africa?
A few months ago I visited East Africa’s largest grid-connected solar project east of Kigali, Rwanda. Built by Gigawatt Global, the 8.5 MW solar project was built on the same land as the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, a home for orphans of Rwanda’s genocide. In addition to producing clean energy, the project also provides employment opportunities. Not only is this new model adding vibrancy to the local community, but also increasing Rwanda’s power generation capacity by 6 percent.

Partnerships play an important role in the success of Power Africa. Can you speak to the role of partnerships in development more generally?
To tackle the world’s biggest challenges, the world’s leading problem solvers need to work together. As the world addresses global challenges, partnerships across all sectors will be required to pull together in new ways. Our partners bring their expertise, capital, and the commitment to solving Africa’s energy crisis.

In addition to carrying the collective resources of the U.S. Government, Power Africa is achieving success by partnering public partners including the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Government of Sweden, the European Union, the African Union, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy. These public sector partners bring an additional $11.8 billion in resources to support Power Africa’s goals; this includes the African Development Bank ($3B), the World Bank Group ($5B), the Swedish Government ($1B) and the European Union ($2.8B).

With nearly $31 billion in private-sector commitments from more than 100 Power Africa private sector stakeholders, the program is making a visible difference in the lives of people who are on and off the grid.

Looking towards 2030, the target date for achieving the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, how do you think financing for development will evolve?
Over the next 15 years we hope that the private sector’s investment in emerging and developing markets will become even more commonplace.”Development financing” may not even be required. With that hope in mind, Power Africa is focused on not only supporting private companies, but also working with governments to create an enabling environment that will encourage sustained investment and growth.

Pooja Singhi, an intern with USAID’s Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs, contributed to this blog.

Andrew M. Herscowitz is the Coordinator of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.  Follow him @aherscowitz and use #PowerAfrica to join the conversation.

The Power of Scientific Research Investment in Africa

On Friday, August 1st, Mr. Melvin Foote and Dr. Nkem Khumbah published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing persuasively that scientific and technological progress is the key to African development. In their words:

“Scientific and technological advancement will help eradicate poverty and promote homegrown economic development by providing Africa with the tools to address its own challenges and expand its industrial productivity.”

In the days before the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah encouraged the U.S. Government to embrace “a science-led agenda in Africa” by pairing American higher education institutions, scientific research centers and tech entrepreneurs with African counterparts to spur economic growth and reduce dependence on aid.

Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah’s vision is one that USAID fully supports and has already taken significant steps to catalyze. Today, Africans are the architects of their development, not just beneficiaries. This new model for development focuses on partnerships — with African governments, businesses, universities and civil society.

USAID-related science programs assist in expanding training for women. / Zahur Ramji (AKDN)

USAID-related science programs assist in expanding training for women. / Zahur Ramji (AKDN)

Building lasting partnerships with African leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators is at the core of USAID’s approach, which seeks to end extreme poverty by investing in Africa’s greatest resource: its people. Many of our newest initiatives reflect not only our renewed commitment to science and technology, but the central importance Africans play in global affairs throughout the 21st century.

USAID is constantly seeking new African partners in an effort to support great ideas from people all over the continent. Under efforts like USAID’s new Global Development Lab, which brings together diverse partners to discover, test and scale new solutions to chronic development challenges, we have identified 200 promising innovations that are currently being tested and evaluated.

Many of these solutions come from developing country entrepreneurs, including African entrepreneurs. A prescription medication verification and tracking system invented by Sproxil, a Kenya-based company (and USAID partner) has reached over 2 million customers in Ghana, Nigeria and East Africa by placing scratch cards on packs of medication. The scratch card reveals a numerical code, and when texted to a Sproxil-provided phone number, will verify whether the drug is genuine or fake. Dozens of similar innovations that have the potential to save millions of lives are currently being tested in Africa, including inexpensive chlorine dispensers in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi and stickers to encourage passengers to urge bus drivers in Kenya to slow down, thereby reducing traffic accidents and related deaths.

Site supervisor Haji Huessen Ngwenje of Symbion Power analyses cables at the Mtoni service station in Zanzibar, Tanzania. / Jake Lyell for the Millennium Challenge Corporation

Site supervisor Haji Huessen Ngwenje of Symbion Power analyses cables at the Mtoni service station in Zanzibar, Tanzania. / Jake Lyell for the Millennium Challenge Corporation

Power Africa is another example of USAID’s new model in action. Through the U.S. Government’s partnerships with African governments, private investors, developers and others, not only is Power Africa saving lives by, for example, bringing electricity to a rural clinic, but it is also spurring long-term growth by scaling new technologies, generating new jobs, and reducing the risks for foreign investment.

Power Africa may have been conceived by the U.S. Government, but the private sector has since taken the lead — the U.S. Government commitment of $7 billion in financing and loan guarantees has given both international and African businesses the confidence to invest in Africa’s emerging electricity sector to the tune of more than $20 billion to date.

As Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah note, it is critical to train the next generation of Africans in science and engineering. USAID supports a number of efforts to this end currently, and is hoping to do more in the near future. In November 2012, USAID and seven universities launched the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) with the goal of bringing their intellectual power and enthusiasm closer to real-time development innovations in the field. This network currently collaborates with labs at four African universities to support studies of how communities respond to changing conditions such as urbanization, changes in local climate, and post-war recovery.

In addition, members of the network collaborate with and support existing S&T based African-led enterprises and emergent community led technology development. The Higher Education for Development (HED) program has supported dozens of partnerships between U.S. universities and African peer institutions. These partnerships typically last years beyond the U.S. investment and result in broad and deep connections between the U.S. and Africa.

Forest monitors in Western Tanzania receive training on how to collect field data using Android smartphones and Open Data Kit (ODK).

Forest monitors in Western Tanzania receive training on how to collect field data using Android smartphones and Open Data Kit (ODK). / Lilian Pintea, Jane Goodall Institute

Similarly, the Research and Innovation Fellowships (RI Fellowships) program and Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program foster science and engineering partnerships on the individual level. RI Fellowships currently supports more than 60 African scientists to collaborate with U.S. fellows in applying their scientific and technological expertise to local development challenges. The PEER program funds scientists who see problems in their midst to do the in-depth research required for creative solutions, while simultaneously expanding research ecosystems in the developing world.

One hundred and fourteen PEER scientists around the world tackle local challenges with tenacity and intellectual vigor, guiding the local development agenda and building an academic foundation for progress. The recent 2014 PEER awardees’ meeting brought 39 PEER awardees from 10 African countries to Arusha, Tanzania to build new connections. As part of the conference, the Vice President of Tanzania, His Excellency Mohamed Bilal, delivered the keynote address in which he said, “Science, engineering and technology education in Sub Saharan Africa holds the key to unlocking the continent’s great potential that could propel sustainable growth and development.”

Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah are right on the mark that a new model of development for Africa must be inclusive, grounded in the latest scientific and technological advancements, and focused on African priorities. Working with counterparts across Africa is the best way to catalyze the technological and scientific change that will be necessary to make the continent’s economic growth sustainable far into the future. Great ideas backed by 21st century science and technology – many of them home-grown in Africa – are the surest path to lifting hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty for good.


Jerry O’Brien is the Director of the Center for Data, Analysis, and Research in the U.S. Global Development Lab. Follow the Lab @GlobalDevLab

10 Ways the U.S. Government is Fighting Global Climate Change (that you’ve never heard about)

Photo Credit: Daniel Byers, SkyShip Films 2011

Nepals Imja Lake / Daniel Byers, SkyShip Films 2011

1. In Nepal, rapidly expanding glacial lakes are often unstable and prone to burst their banks, washing out communities below. USAID is working with high-mountain communities to help measure the impact of melting glaciers on Imja Lake, not far from Mount Everest base camp.

Read about how we’re helping bring Andean expertise to Nepal’s glacial lake region.

Wheat farmers in Kazakhstan are learning about the expected climate change impacts on their crop.

Wheat farmers in Kazakhstan are learning about the expected climate change impacts on their crop. / USAID

2. In Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s breadbasket, USAID is working with the government to ensure wheat farmers get better weather and climate forecasts to make better planting and harvest decisions. A severe drought in 2012 slashed Kazakhstan wheat harvests by half, contributing to a worldwide food shortage that led the World Bank to issue a global hunger warning.

Read more about how we’re helping to preserve “Asia’s breadbasket.”

Ethiopian Sheep

Ethiopian Sheep / Nena Terrell, USAID

3. Cows, camels, goats and sheep are the lifeblood of pastoralist farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia. But these poor farmers live with the constant threat that a severe drought, like the one in 2009, could decimate herds and flocks. USAID is working with locals to develop livestock insurance, new water conservation practices and other measures so pastoralists can survive and bounce back from severe droughts.

Read more about how East Africa’s dryland herders are taking out a policy on survival.

Forest measurement demonstration near Lae by staff of Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea.

Forest measurement demonstration near Lae by staff of Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Low Emission Asia Forests project / USAID, RDMA

4. Worldwide, forest destruction generates more greenhouse gas emissions each year than do all the trains, planes and cars on the planet. Worldwide, 50 soccer fields of forest are lost every minute of every day, and forests in Southeast Asia are being cleared faster than almost anywhere on earth. In Papua New Guinea, USAID is working to teach forest carbon measurement techniques so that local people and communities can show the progress they are making conserving tropical forest.

multispectral imagery of the Nzoia River basin

The Nzoia River basin lies entirely within the Lake Victoria basin in Kenya. The SERVIR-Africa team captured multispectral imagery of the Nzoia River basin from the NASA’s EO-1 satellite on August 23, 2008 to provide baseline imagery of this frequently flooded area for future analysis. / NASA, EO-1

5. Fighting climate change requires good data. USAID and NASA partner to provide satellite-based Earth observation data and science applications to help developing nations improve their environmental decision-making as well as monitor other issues like famines, floods and disease outbreaks. We are currently working with Tanzania’s weather agency to use satellite data to map climate and weather risks and to create early warning systems, including for malaria outbreaks.

Read more about how USAID uses data to better manage land resources.

The Russian boreal forest

The Russian boreal forest / Vladimir Savchenko

6. What happens when anyone can become a forest ranger? USAID is supporting World Resources Institute with the Global Forest Watch interactive global forest mapping tool. The online tool allows people to access – or upload – near real-time information about what is happening on the ground in forests around the world.

Southern downtown section of Hue. Photo: Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting

Southern downtown section of Hue. / Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting

7. In 2006, the Vietnamese city of Hue was paralyzed for days, submerged under more than six feet of floodwater after a large rain. USAID today helps Hue and other at-risk coastal cities anticipate and address the repeated flooding and other climate impacts on roads and energy systems by helping them plan smarter cities that can weather climate events. In Hue, we are helping urban planners customize and apply a tailored software tool that anticipates the effects of climate change on critical infrastructure.

Read more about how USAID is helping build a climate-smart Vietnam.

Asma Molla with her husband Jalal, their five sons, and their two solar lamps.

Asma Molla with her husband Jalal, their five sons, and their two solar lamps. / Souradeep Ghosh, Arc Finance

8. Worldwide, more than 1.4 billion people lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion lack access to modern cooking fuels and devices. In Uganda, India and Haiti, USAID is helping low-income people buy devices that improve their incomes and quality of life, and reduce carbon emissions at the same time by expanding the availability of consumer financing for clean energy products. We are also helping 13 companies develop and test business models that will make it easier for tens of thousands of poor people to purchase clean energy products such as solar lanterns and clean cookstoves.

Check out how USAID’s Renewable Energy Microfinance and Microenterprise Program is improving the quality of life of low-income populations while at the same time helping USAID partners to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about how the Renewable Energy Microfinance and Microenterprise Program is bringing clean energy to people who live most of their lives in the dark.

Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands

Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands / USAID CTSP, Tory Read

9. Ever hear of the Coral Triangle? This  massive swath of ocean in between Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste is not only likely where your seafood dinner came from – it’s reefs also buffer shorelines against waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and land erosion. But today, as much as 90 percent of Coral Triangle reefs (and the 360 million people that depend on them) are threatened by overfishing, population growth, development, pollution and the impacts of climate change. USAID helps protect this “amazon of the seas” by helping the six Coral Triangle nations better manage the most biodiverse and productive ocean region in the world.

Read more about how the Coral Triangle Initiative is helping protect this unique marine wonder and check out this photostory.

A Cofan shaman.

Strengthening their organizations has enabled the indigenous Cofan people to preserve their cultural identity and ancient knowledge / Thomas J. Müller

10. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change. Several studies show that deforestation and illegal trafficking of species are significantly lower in indigenous territories, even when compared with natural protected areas, such as national parks and reserves. USAID is equipping indigenous populations to become active guardians of the Amazon biome in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and is investing in youth who will continue the fight to preserve the native culture and territory as future scientists, lawyers, doctors and political leaders.

Serbia Plugs Into Cow Power

In the past, I would speed up when driving by a farm. The only thing I could think of was the awful smell that made me hold my breath. Now, I slow down and think of endless supplies of clean energy, thanks to a USAID project that is helping convert manure into renewable energy– all the while, banking on American industrial expertise.

On one farm in Blace, a town of 11,000 people in southern Serbia, 700 cows produce thousands of gallons of manure each day. But this farm’s waste does not “go to waste.”

With support from USAID’s Agribusiness Project, manure from the Lazar Dairy is being “digested” by Serbia’s first biogas plant and converted into electricity, which the dairy sells to the national electricity company, EPS, at a preferential rate applicable to renewable energy suppliers.

Lazar pays about €0.05/kWh for the electricity it purchases from EPS, but it will receive about three times as much for the electricity that it sells to power company.

Lazar Dairy Biogas Plant 5

A DAI-led USAID project supported the construction of Serbia’s Lazar Dairy new biogas plant. The plant was designed by DVO Inc., of Chilton, Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

Ushering the $2 million plant from drawing board to full operation took two-years. USAID’s Agribusiness Project acted as the “matchmaker” between Lazar Dairy and DVO, Inc., of Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

The dairy had faced significant problems dealing with its manure, a major pollution issue. Now, this is virtually eliminated by the digester — a sealed container — as is the odor problem. Since its inauguration in May 2012, the plant has been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, feeding up to 1 MW of renewable electrical energy into the national electrical grid every month—enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

In addition to generating biogas that powers the generator, the leftover solids and liquids are filtered and used for cow bedding and as fertilizer. The recycling of other organic waste (such as whey from cheese production at the farm) results in a liquid fertilizer and waste heat in the form of hot water that can be used to heat buildings.

Lazar Dairy Biogas Plant 3

A DAI-led USAID project supported the construction of Serbia’s Lazar Dairy new biogas plant. The plant was designed by DVO Inc., of Chilton, Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

“The introduction of the bio-digester completely changed our business operations. We now have a steady cash inflow and dispose of our waste without harm to the environment,” said Milan Vidojevic, owner of the Lazar Dairy and one of Serbia’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Bolstering technological innovations like these, which encourage economic growth both abroad and at home, while supporting responsible agricultural practices, is a priority at USAID.

“This investment demonstrates that environmentally sound production can increase profits AND provide wide reaching benefits for the whole community. The U.S. Government is proud to have facilitated this process, through which this American technology has found its way to Blace,” said the former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Mary Warlick.

Lazar Dairy, which employs 120 people, is an economic engine for villages around Blace. In addition to its dairy farm, Lazar buys up to 45,000 liters (12,000 gallons) of milk per day from a network of more than 2,000 local farmers within a 100-kilometer radius. Its processing plant converts this raw milk to processed milk, yogurt, creams, and cheeses.

As a result of USAID’s assistance since early 2009, the company has generated annual sales of nearly $1 million, which translates to more than $600,000 in cash payments to the 2,000 raw-milk suppliers. Should future environmental regulations in Serbia allow it, the dairy would be eligible for additional revenue through the sale of carbon credits.

Taking Action to Combat Climate Change

This week, delegates from countries around the world continue to work at the UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw on a global agreement to take meaningful action on climate change. In the midst of the negotiations, I was pleased to represent USAID at a side event with other Obama Administration officials to describe how the United States is already taking action to combat climate change – through the steps outlined in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The President’s Climate Action Plan (PDF) has three main pillars: to cut carbon pollution in the United States, to prepare the United States for impacts of climate change, and to lead international efforts to address global climate change.  As part of this government-wide effort, USAID provides support to over 50 developing countries for climate change, working with them on tools and strategies that build resilience, as well as working with them to pursue sustainable economic growth, spur investment in clean energy, and reduce emissions from deforestation.

Panelists at UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw. From left to right: Andrew Steer, WRI, Kit Batten, Nancy Sutley, CEQ and Jonathan Pershing from DOE. Photo credit: Andrea Welsh, USAID

Panelists at UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw. From left to right: Andrew Steer, WRI; Kit Batten, USAID; Nancy Sutley, CEQ and Jonathan Pershing from DOE. Photo credit: Andrea Welsh, USAID

To maximize our impact, USAID is pursuing innovative financing strategies, partnering with the private sector, and utilizing science and technology. Earlier this year, Secretary Kerry announced that USAID will be able to leverage up to $100 million dollars worth of private sector investment in wind power, solar power, hydropower, and energy efficiency projects in India through USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). The U.S. Government is also a founding partner of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, which is a public private partnership with the goal of reducing tropical deforestation associated with global commodities like palm oil, paper and pulp, soy, and beef. We’re also working with NASA to provide satellite imagery and accessible weather and climate data to local officials in East Africa, Central America and the Hindu Kush/Himalaya region so communities can make more informed decisions.

We’re already seeing and measuring the impact of our efforts.  In 2012 alone, USAID’s work in the forestry sector contributed to reducing more than 140 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.  That’s equal to the carbon pollution generated by 39 coal-fired power plants, or the carbon pollution released by the consumption of over 15 billion gallons of gasoline.  That’s billion with a ‘b.’

Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is making meaningful and measurable progress on climate change. USAID is proud to have a substantial role in this effort and is proud to represent the United States here with many of our country partners in Warsaw. We recognize that building resilience to climate change and pursuing sustainable low-emissions growth are essential parts of our development mission.

Reclaiming Refuse to Help Generate Reliable Power

This originally appeared in Feed the Future newsletter

Energy and agriculture are closely linked: reliable access to affordable power is a key component to developing a country’s agriculture sector and giving agriculture-based businesses a chance to grow. That’s why Feed the Future is working in Liberia to reverse decades of devastating civil conflict and rebuild a sustainable energy infrastructure that can support better market opportunities for smallholder farmers and agricultural processors.

After fourteen years of war, all sectors of Liberia’s economy were heavily damaged. By the end of the conflict in 2003, Liberia was not producing a single kilowatt of electricity for the entire country, and even today, only about 10 percent of the capital city of Monrovia is on the public electric grid. Outlying rural communities depend on privately owned gasoline or diesel-driven generators for their electricity, which makes Liberia one of the most expensive and environmentally unfriendly electricity generation systems in the world.

To address this serious challenge to development, Feed the Future is working to expand the use of renewable energy to rural areas of Liberia where agriculture is concentrated. Since June 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s program to support Liberia’s energy sector and its flagship Feed the Future program in the country have been working with the Government of Liberia and local partners to establish a biomass energy center that can turn palm oil, palm nut and coconut shell byproducts, among other types of organic refuse, into an affordable and reliable supply of electricity. The pilot center is based at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Liberia’s first vocational and agricultural school.

Biofuels not only have the potential to displace carbon emissions from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, but they are also significantly more accessible to smallholder farmers in remote rural areas who are already growing the crops (like palm and coconut) whose byproducts can be converted into fuel through a process called gasifying. With the right infrastructure, organic biomass can supplement the use of fossil fuel to help bring costs down in the agriculture sector. The gasifiers have already allowed BWI to complement its other sources of energy with renewable energy.

This innovative technology shows promise for agricultural processors in particular who cannot regularly afford costly fossil fuel for generators to power processing equipment. As the model is increasingly adopted in Liberia, Feed the Future will promote private sector investment that can expand access to affordable and renewable energy for some of Liberia’s most vulnerable populations.


USAID in the News

AllAfrica reported on a newly-announced USAID partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund USA and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, which is aimed at supporting the proposed Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new hospital, scheduled to open in June 2015, will provide high-quality medical care to children regardless of their social or economic status.

A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled on Sep. 21, 2013 at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, DC. Photo credit: USAID

A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled on Sep. 21, 2013 at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, DC. Photo credit: USAID

The Express Tribune featured a story about the fourth National Youth Peace Festival in Lahore, Pakistan, which is being supported in part by USAID. The organizers expects to see 500 young people from across Pakistan attend the festival, the theme of which is “One Nation, One Agenda; Democracy and Peace.” Politicians will attend the festival in hopes of engaging youth by taking up issues that are relevant to them.

Jamaica Observer reported USAID’s tool donation  to 105 cocoa farmers in Jamaica as a part of a two-year project, which focuses on “protecting rural lives, livelihoods and ecosystems” in communities affected by climate change. The tools will be used by farmers to combat the negative effects of climate change on agriculture.

Vibe Ghana detailed USAID efforts to support the Western Regional Health Directorate in Ghana. USAID contributions to the health directorate include training, performance-based grants, and equipment that will be distributed throughout district hospitals and health care centers. Dr. Edward Bonko, Leader of the Focus Region Health Project of USAID, explained that the efforts would assist with “maternal, reproductive and child health, HIV/AIDS and malaria preventions and neonatal care” in the Western Region.

Pakistan’s The Nation reported on the visit of a group of U.S. government officials, including USAID Mission Director for Pakistan Gregory Gottleib, to the Jamshoro Thermal Power Station. The power plant will provide an additional 270 megawatts of power to the national grid.  In addition to the Jamshoro power plant, USAID is working to rehabilitate thermal plants in Muzaffargarh and Guddu and a hydro-plant in Tarbela.

The website OpenEqualFree detailed a USAID effort to educate student gardeners in Liberia through the Advancing Youth Project—a partnership with Liberia’s Ministry of Education and community organizations that offers “alternative basic education services and entrepreneurship training for young people across Liberia.” The initiative will provide agricultural experts to train students to grow their own gardens and teach them the about agribusiness as a possible career choice.

The Hill featured a piece written by Representatives Albio Sires and Mario Diaz-Balart spotlighting USAID efforts to combat tuberculosis. The story, which describes legislation geared toward encouraging development of health care products in low-resource health systems, includes an overview of USAID’s contributions in the area of research and development in global health, saying, “As a leading funder of breakthrough products for global health, USAID is a key partner in later-stage research that ensures the development of safe and effective health tools.”

From Addis Ababa: A Power[ful] Africa Message

On the outskirts of Addis Ababa sits the engineering and production facility of one of the world’s most cutting edge high technology firms, the Ethiopian-American firm dVentus Technologies. This firm and its success could be a harbinger of change across the entire African continent.

 United States Trade Representative Michael Froman (left) and USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast (center) discuss renewable energy technologies with Daniel Gizaw, CEO and President of dVentus Technologies during a visit to the company's facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Daniel Mesfin, U.S. Embassy Ethiopia

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman (left) and USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast (center) discuss renewable energy technologies with Daniel Gizaw, CEO and President of dVentus Technologies during a visit to the company’s facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Daniel Mesfin, U.S. Embassy Ethiopia

It was here, one early morning this month, that America’s top foreign trade envoy, Michael Froman, huddled with two officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Assistant Administrator (Africa) Earl Gast, and Power Africa Coordinator Andrew Herscowitz, to hear a briefing by dVentus CEO Daniel Gizaw.

Gizaw, an Ethiopian-American, is fascinating realization of the American Dream.  A graduate of the University of Gdansk in Poland, Daniel was able to transfer to the University of Wisconsin and work on his PhD there. With more than 20 years’ experience in the USA designing state-of-the art electric motors, generators and electronics drives and extensive expertise in management of technology, Daniel founded Danotek Motion Technologies in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about ten years ago to serve the specialized needs of the advanced transportation and renewable energy industries; by 2005, he formed an engineering team in Ethiopia to support the U.S. operation.

He also acquired expansive prior experience in the areas of research, product development, staff engineering, and operation management for General Electric, GM-Electric Vehicle, Cummins Power Generation, and Ford Motor Company. Gizaw’s success led into several patents and major commercial breakthrough including GE’s ECM motor, the Cummins variable speed generator, and Ford’s flexible fuel vehicles’ electronic brushless fuel pump and, most recently, Danotek’s high efficiency Generators for Wind Turbines and Cogenerations. Backed by venture capital and strategic investors, Danotek eventually became a world class manufacturer of large megawatt wind turbine generators. Gizaw was nominated entrepreneur of the year by the State of Michigan and Ernst & Young and served on Michigan Governor Granholm’s Committee for Renewable Energy.

It was then that Daniel Gizaw decided that it was time to return to the land of his forefathers and build out a major portion of his global business “dVentus” there to serve high growth and underserved market. Diaspora trade and investment linkages are often the strongest strands connecting developing countries to the wider global economy, but it is important to continually nurture them.

Interestingly, dVentus Technologies was not a major exporter or beneficiary under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the primary reason Ambassador Froman and other senior U.S. officials were in Ethiopia attending the annual AGOA Forum.  But dVentus is a private sector partner in Power Africa, the initiative announced by President Obama during his recent trip to Africa.

“This is exactly the kind of story that fits into Power Africa,” said Ambassador Froman.  “It’s cutting edge technology it will help both in the generation of electricity in terms of the wind power and generation capabilities here, but also  energy efficiency and the smart grid and the meters that will make electricity more manageable for governments across sub Saharan Africa.”

Power Africa seeks to address one of the critical constraints to sustained economic growth and human development on the continent: more than two-thirds of Africans do not have access to reliable electricity. Companies like dVentus are a key part of the Power Africa strategy: harnessing the private sector, its expertise and resources, to jump-start African power sectors in multiple countries that have suffered decades of under-investment and mismanagement. In some cases, Power Africa will increase electricity generation by reducing the risks and therefore the costs associated with key power projects. In other cases, Power Africa works directly with African governments to improve their capacity to manage and expand their power infrastructure.  In still other cases, Power Africa will work at the local level, providing grants to small developers to build out small scale clean energy solutions for rural communities that are too remote to connect with their national grids.

The dVentus story, and the U.S. Government’s role in it, is a unique one. Daniel Gizaw’s venture has contracted with the Ethiopian utility to develop and manufacture two million smart meters that will significantly improve the efficiency of energy use across the national grid.  dVentus also has plans to develop its other two lines of business in Ethiopia and the broader region: wind turbines and propulsion systems for clean energy vehicles. In each case, the innovation and the manufacturing will take place in Ethiopia and the United States, strengthening the commercial ties between both.

dVentus already invested from its internal resources over $2.5 Million USD. Different streams of government and private sector support have come together to support the dVentus expanding operation. AfDB is looking into providing $1M assistance for renewable energy and energy efficiency project. USAID will be providing a credit guarantee through its Development Credit Authority Diaspora Facility for a $1 million working capital loan to support the smart meter development. OPIC is exploring longer-term financing for the manufacturing phase. At the same time, RENEW, a private firm that channels angel investment into emerging markets, has arranged investment into dVentus from several American Angel groups.  The dVentus story exemplifies the public-private partnership approach of the Power Africa Initiative and how small, innovative firms are changing the landscape of the power sector in Sub-Saharan Africa.


“Come Back at Night and You Will Understand”

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

This plain-spoken answer—from a father who lived in a village without access to electricity—came in response to the question: What is life like without electrical power?

For most of the world, electricity allows business to flourish, students to study, and clinics to run long after the sun goes down. But for 600 million Africans, these opportunities simply don’t exist.

As a result, a sick child in Nigeria is unable to take antibiotics because the medication has to be refrigerated. A farmer in northern Ghana purchases a cell phone to connect himself with the world, but every other day he has to walk to the nearest electrified village and pay to charge the phone—a waste of time and money.

These difficulties are repeated on a large scale across the continent. Nearly half of all businesses try to cope with frequent power outages by using expensive stand-alone diesel generators that also pollute the environment. These stop-gap measures are no basis on which to build a modern economy.

In order to shape a brighter future, we cannot rely on donors alone. African countries must have transparent, accountable, and streamlined systems that attract private investors and developers. To help shape this environment, the United States, together with African governments and the international business community, is kicking off an initiative to bring more reliable, clean power to Africa. Announced by President Obama in Cape Town, Power Africa will create the conditions needed for long-term investments in energy infrastructure – generators, transmission lines and distribution systems. In ten years, we’ll bring 10,000 megawatts on line – and bring power to millions of African homes and businesses.

At its core, Power Africa represents a new model for development that is beginning to define the way we work around the world. Like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the Call to Action in Child Survival, Power Africa harnesses public-private partnerships and demands greater accountability from our partners to deliver incredible results.

On his trip to Africa, the President recognized the profound potential of this new model. “[Power Africa] is representative of my new approach when it comes to development,” President Obama explained in Tanzania. “I believe the purpose of development should be to build capacity and to help other countries actually stand on their own feet… Instead of perpetual aid, development has to fuel investment and economic growth so that assistance is no longer necessary.”

Through Power Africa, we will help create incentives and reduce risk for American investors in Africa, while working with African governments to modernize inefficient old networks and establish fair and transparent partnerships with the private sector. We will also be working with businesses themselves – American, African, and others. Investment specialists will analyze barriers to investment and then work with all parties to remove those roadblocks.

Once the first Power Africa projects succeed in bringing electrical power to African communities, the impact of those examples will encourage other ventures to follow in their footsteps. Electricity provides the countless opportunities and freedoms that define development.  It will take a great deal of commitment and patience to solve this problem, but today we know it can be solved.


Follow @USAIDAfrica on Twitter to learn about our global development work in the continent!

USAID in the News

A publication in the Middle East’s AmeInfo, writes of a dialogue hosted by USAID’s Youth for Future Project. This session showcased success stories and firsthand experiences from several Youth Entrepreneurship Project beneficiaries, and concluded with a Q & A segment and the dissemination of the final report on the Project.

Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo Credit: Pat Adams, USAID

The New York Times mentioned “a new loan-guarantee program by [USAID] intended to generate…$100 million in private financing to develop clean-energy technologies” in a piece on President Obama’s speech on climate change at Georgetown University in late June. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement  during a recent visit to New Delhi. “The good news is that if we do this right, it’s not going to hurt our economies,” Mr. Kerry said. “It actually helps them. It won’t deny our children opportunity; it will actually create new ones.”

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