Insist on Renewable Energy in Africa

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Ensure that energy project in Africa is based on renewable energy

President Obama recently pledged $7 billion to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa through a new energy initiative called “Power Africa.” However, the sources of most of the promised electricity are unclear. This petition insists that Obama follow through on action to promote renewable energy and invest in a sustainable future for Africa.

According to a White House statistic, “Two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, including more than 85% of those living in rural areas.” Over the next five years, the plan will strive to expand electricity to more than 20 million households and businesses. It will target six African countries, providing 10,000 megawatts of clean and efficient power.

The project is also intended to attract international investments to Africa’s growing energy sector, thus integrating Africa into the global economy. $9 billion worth of investments have already been promised from the private sector.

While a portion of funding ($20 million) will be directly allocated to renewable energy projects, questions remain about whether Africa’s up-and-coming energy reforms will be based on dirty energy of the past: oil, natural gas, and coal or renewables. In South Africa, where Obama announced the plan, 93 percent of electricity is coal-powered, though the country is transitioning to renewable energy sources.

In a recent speech on climate change, Obama called for “an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity.” Skeptics of Power Africa worry that the initiative may end up leaning toward the second option rather than investing in renewable technology to build a healthier and more stable future for Africa’s energy. The press release for Power Africa mentions clean energy and the idea of leading countries on a path to sustainable growth by “developing and disseminating clean technologies.”

However, the list of contributors provides reason for concern for environmentalists. The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), a bank notoriously involved in dirty fossil fuel projects, has pledged $5 billion in loans for the plan. According to the Sierra Club, Ex-Im previously invested $800 million for a fossil-fueled power station in South Africa, “despite local protests and the fact that the area around the project already exceeded pollution limits.” Ex-Im’s priorities don’t align with the plan’s goal of sustainable growth through renewable energy and may compromise the positive impact of this initiative.

While Power Africa has great potential to provide electricity and new opportunities to the continent, it’s important that the foundation the U.S. helps create is one based on renewable energy and sustainable technology instead of carbon-emitting fossil fuels. We urge the President to follow through on his promise of investing in renewable energy for Africa and not allow corporate interests to compromise the positive goals of this initiative: to invest in the promise of a brighter and healthier future for Africa.


Dear President Obama,

Your recent announcement of Power Africa, an initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people and afford citizens boundless new opportunities for education, jobs, and innovation.

With the initiative engaging in partnerships with the private sector, we hope you won’t lose sight of your promise of investing in renewable energy and not allowing corporate interests to make Africa as dependent on dirty fuel as the U.S. has become. We hope that the legacy of Power Africa will be one of innovation in sustainable and renewable energy rather than leading another country down the path of pollution and destruction to the environment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kalle Pihlajasaari via Wikimedia Commons

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