THE BLOG
08/04/2014 03:18 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2014

Electricity Will Give Life to Economic Growth in Africa

This week's historic U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington is a unique opportunity for our partners in Africa and our partners in business to listen and learn from one another. Among the many important issues, the summit offers a chance to think creatively about the shared challenge of fighting energy poverty and how to harness the economic opportunities that energy can bring.

Energy poverty is a critically important issue. Lack of access to safe, reliable, affordable energy has a deep impact on people's lives and on a country's ability to sustain real economic growth. That's why, for millions of people living in extreme poverty across the continent of Africa, the solution can begin with a connection to electricity.

In Ghana, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is helping provide that solution.

One of the highlights of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is the announcement of a new partnership between MCC and Ghana to address the challenge of energy poverty head-on. One of my first actions as an MCC Board member was to vote to approve the new investment, and I couldn't be more proud.

Over the next five years, MCC will invest $498.2 million to support transformation of Ghana's power sector and stimulate private investment. In turn, the Government of Ghana has offered a strong commitment to implement needed reforms in its power sector, and a pledge to invest at least $37.4 million of its own money.

The private sector is playing a critical role; the compact is expected to catalyze at least $4 billion in investments from American firms alone. This partnership is designed to put Ghana's power sector on a sustainable path to profitability, creating a climate to attract private investment to the west African nation.

I'm hopeful this compact will mark the beginning of the end of energy poverty in Ghana -- and serve as a model for how to address the problem elsewhere.

Energy poverty affects all corners of society. Students must stop studying when the sun goes down. Families and businesses often rely on expensive, unhealthy and sometimes dangerous alternatives like diesel generators. A harvest left to the elements and spoiling can wreck a farmer's livelihood.

Consider this: In Africa, 60 percent of refrigerators used in health clinics have unreliable electricity, making it difficult to keep vaccines and medicines cool. With power outages, surgery sometimes takes place with no lighting or power for equipment, putting people's lives at serious risk.

The Ghana Power Compact is so much more than just investments in energy. It's about the promise of what those investments hope to bring -- a path to an end to energy poverty and a more promising future for all Ghanaians.