Obama signs law to bring electricity to 50 million people in Africa

The law will go into effect by 2020

President Barack Obama has signed bipartisan legislation to bring "affordable and reliable" electricity to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and Senate in 2015 and will go into effect by 2020. The initiative gives legal backing to the president’s Power Africa coalition, a partnership between the US and African governments and the private sector. The US has committed $7 billion (£4.8 billion) which has leveraged $43 billion (£29.6 billion) from the public and private sectors.

Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said on Monday that the legislation would improve the lives of millions.

"Enactment of Electrify Africa stands to improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined,” Mr Royce said in a statement. 

“This legislation, which will promote development of affordable and reliable energy, isn’t just good for Africa. Electrify Africa also means new opportunities for U.S. job creators looking to compete in the continent’s growing markets.”

According to the BBC, consultant firm McKinsey has estimated that providing the entire continent with electricity would cost $835 billion (£575 billion).

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio also applauded the effort.

“US foreign assistance works best when it is targeted toward the most pressing needs and can be leveraged to help recipients further develop their economies,” Senator Rubio said in a statement. “The Electrify Africa Act will enhance our current assistance programs in Africa and help expand access to electricity, which is essential to support poverty reduction and promote economic development.” 

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