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Making Energy More Accessible in Africa: The Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge

Summary: 
To accelerate the delivery of electricity to rural populations, the U.S. African Development Foundation has teamed up with GE Africa to launch the $2 million, three-year Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge.
President Barack Obama tosses a Soccket ball in the air at the Ubongo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam

President Barack Obama tosses a Soccket ball in the air at the Ubongo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 2, 2013. As it is used, the ball is able to create and store kinetic energy as a battery. Standing with the President, from left, are: Paul Hinks, CEO Symbion Power; Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa; President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; Victor Angel, Vice President of Product Development at Uncharted Play; and Jessica Matthews, Co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Millions of African communities need access to reliable, affordable power to grow their businesses and transform their lives. Power Africa, an initiative President Obama announced during his trip to Africa this summer, is building on Africa’s enormous power potential, helping countries responsibly develop newly-discovered vast oil and natural gas reserves and build out power production and transmission to meet their energy needs with the goal of doubling electricity access across sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, with more than 85 percent of those in rural areas lacking access to electricity, many are calling for a new wave of off-grid, renewable approaches to energy generation, opening access to communities outside the mainstream.

To accelerate the delivery of electricity to rural populations, the U.S. African Development Foundation has teamed up with GE Africa to launch the $2 million, three-year Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge. The first Request for Proposals is open from September 17 to October 16, with the call to African applicants with initiatives in Kenya and Nigeria to expand markets, test innovations, and leverage financing to increase the delivery of off-grid energy to marginalized populations.  Successful proposals may also introduce innovative payment and collection methods that can extend the reach of power delivery – both areas of significant need and opportunity. This initial funding round will award $500,000 of grants, of up to $100,000 each, followed by an additional $1.5 million of grants in the next two years.

The Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge is tapping into expertise on how Africa’s power challenges can be solved from an African perspective. Entrepreneurs and innovators are experimenting with renewable energy sources, from solar to biogas to hydroelectric. They are developing alternative off-grid delivery and payment models, to address the variable power demands for productive and commercial activities, from agricultural production and processing to off-farm businesses and commercial enterprises. Areas now underserved by existing utility companies are targeted to benefit. 

USADF’s grassroots, bottom-up approach to development, with direct funding to Africa cooperatives, companies and community-based organizations, and GE’s focus on local solutions, are at the heart of this competitive award. Innovators will help meet more power needs on the continent, and more marginalized communities will be able to engage in productive activities and benefit from inclusive economic growth.  


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