President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, launched in Cape Town 2013, promises to double electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years.
A key component of the Power Africa initiative would be the provision of US$7 billion worth of new financing primarily routed through the US Export-Import Bank, (the Bank) which was established in 1934 to assist US companies in selling their products overseas. The financing would take the form of traditional loans, guarantees, credit insurance and other forms of credit support.
Despite a promising start, Power Africa suffered a major blow when Congress failed to renew the Bank’s authorisation which, along with its tax-payer backed funding, lapsed on June 30 2015. Since July the Bank has scaled down its operations and a number of projects have stalled.
However, in a rare show of bi-partisanship, Democrats and Republicans in the divided Congress joined forces to garner enough support to file a ‘discharge petition’. Should the petition receive the necessary support from 218 members, Congress will be forced to vote on a bill which seeks to extend the Bank’s charter to September 2019 and importantly, unlock much need tax-payer funding. Indications are that the vote will take place in late October. The outcome will be keenly watched both in the US and in Africa.