Power Africa
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Power Africa

America’s Factories Powering Africa’s Grids

Power Africa is reaching more U.S. businesses and helping to connect American innovation and technology to African markets.

Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and as those economies grow, their already limited electrical grids get even more stressed. Frequent power outages bring the fledgling, thriving manufacturing industries to a screeching halt — at least until the expensive, dirty, backup, diesel generators kick-in. The dynamism and energy driving African communities and businesses has created an enormous demand for new infrastructure and investment.

The future looks bright for many African countries, with the youngest population on the planet. It is projected that by 2034 Africa’s workforce will be larger than that of India or China, which also means more buyers for U.S. goods and services. As a result, Africa is viewed as among the world’s greatest growth opportunities, and U.S. companies are taking advantage of this opportunity. In September 2016, American investment in Africa was up 70% from two years prior (Bloomberg).

Power Africa Coordinator Andrew Herscowitz speaks with journeymen lineman at a substation in the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative on September 18, 2017. Credit — Jeremy Faber

This week, the U.S. government’s Power Africa program visited some of the U.S. companies and workers who are helping to deliver on Power Africa’s goal of doubling electricity access in Africa. Power Africa has more than 150 public and private sector partners, who collectively have committed more than $50 billion of their own money to helping achieve Power Africa’s goals. Our partners bring American expertise and investment in the utility sector to help build electricity grids in Africa and make them more reliable and efficient. But it’s not only American ingenuity supporting African utilities, it’s also American innovation and technology connecting those utilities to their customers.

There’s a thriving base of manufacturers in the U.S. producing the equipment needed to move electrons on the grid and satisfy the world’s ever-growing demand for electricity, and Power Africa is committed to maintaining that base and helping it grow — creating more jobs and more exports. With the fastest growing economies and the youngest populations, African nations are now a major driver of this growth, and a major destination for the products leaving U.S. factories.

At the RESCO facility — most of the boxes in the background contain parts that are made in America.

On Tuesday, Power Africa announced its intent to partner with Eaton, a world leader in the development and manufacture of electrical equipment that helps ensure the safe and reliable distribution of power, including equipment for electrical grids. Eaton employs over 95,000 people globally and runs over 110 manufacturing facilities across the United States. They build the products and provide the solutions to the challenge of meeting surging electricity demand in Africa and around the world, some of which can be seen in Eaton’s factory in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Partnership ceremony with Eaton Electric. Credit- Eaton

Throughout Wisconsin, Eaton employs more than 1,700 people, and at the Badger Drive factory in Waukesha employees build transformers, voltage regulators and other equipment for utility transmission and distribution substations and voltage regulation. This equipment has critical application for the build-out and modernization of the electric grid in Africa. Eaton has been doing business on the continent since 1927, including recent projects with utility companies in Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.

From the floor of the Badger Drive facility. Credit- Eaton

“Eaton’s collaboration with Power Africa is a natural fit based on our common goals of improving people’s lives by increasing access to safe, reliable electricity,” said Matt Hockman, vice president and general manager, Power Delivery & Regulation Division, Eaton. “We look forward to working together with them to meet critical grid infrastructure needs and to grow our business on the continent.”

From Waukesha, head an hour and a half down down the shores of Lake Michigan on I-94 to Mt. Prospect, Illinois. That’s where an American engineering firm, Weldy Lamont, is headquartered. While it may be relatively small, it is jumping into big opportunities much farther abroad.

Dennis Lamont talks about the Weldy Lamont “Africa Room.”

Weldy Lamont started working in Ghana in 1998, and has since designed, engineered, procured, and helped build rural extensions to the country’s electric grid that have reached some 2000 villages. The American equipment supplies for this project were financed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and since the start of Power Africa, Weldy has connected more than 67,000 rural households to electricity while generating a combined $57 million in exports from over 20 U.S. equipment manufacturers and suppliers across 14 states, most of them small & medium enterprises.

This mural, in a main hallway in the Weldy Lamont offices, was created by a local Illinois artist using a series of 10 photographs taken during visits to Ghana and Senegal by several of Weldy Lamont’s staff.

Eaton and Weldy Lamont are just two among Power Africa’s many partners and suppliers that call the U.S. home. In fact, there are 64 of them in 22 different states. Power Africa is delivering results for American firms by combining and tailoring U.S. government resources to support U.S. business growth in Africa. We’re building off of the growth of the U.S. energy industry — one of the brightest spots for job growth in recent years.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 6.4 million Americans now work in the domestic energy industries, which added over 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, 14% of the nation’s job growth that year. And the sector’s growth is balanced and diversified, both geographically, and across skill-sets and technologies — job growth was reported in nine out of ten power generation sub-sectors. The industry is looking forward to sustained job growth, with projected hiring rates of 7% within the electric power generation sector, and 6% employment growth projected for transmission, wholesale distribution, and energy storage firms.

With a project pipeline that includes billions of dollars of U.S. export opportunities, Power Africa is serving as a platform to sustain the growth of the American energy sector through demand for technology and services from the world’s most promising emerging markets.

Power Africa is working with African governments, multilateral development institutions, and some of the world’s largest investment firms to make sure Africa’s infrastructure can sustain the economic growth being driven by its citizens. And the American business community is stepping up as well: a business located in Waukesha, Wisconsin is exporting across the continent, and a small company in Illinois is connecting Ghana with an American-made supply chain. As the U.S. energy sector continues to innovate and grow, it’s a good bet that Africa will welcome more and more American companies creating thousands of new jobs in the U.S.

Power Africa is a U.S. Government-led initiative launched in 2013 to unlock the substantial natural gas, wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal resources on the continent through partnerships. To date, Power Africa has leveraged over $50 billion in commitments from the public and private sectors, including more than $40 billion in commitments from the private sector. 7,200 MW that have reached financial close and have helped provide over 10 million connections, which means tens of millions of people have access to electricity that did not prior to Power Africa’s launch in 2013 while supporting U.S. jobs and U.S. businesses.

For more information, visit www.usaid.gov/powerafrica




Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Power Africa’s goal is to add more than 30,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections.

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Power Africa

Power Africa

A U.S. Government-led partnership that seeks to add 30,000 MW and 60 million electricity connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 > https://bit.ly/2yPx3lJ

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