The Foreign Service Journal, March 2020

46 MARCH 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL ing as a Foreign Service officer. Given my earlier experience with electricity outages there, I was thrilled to work on a project with the National Rural Electrification Cooperative Association to expand rural electrification, introduce modern metering, and attract private sector financing for the metering project. My work with USAID took me from the Dominican Repub- lic to Peru and, in 2013, to Ecuador, where I served as the mission director. There, as I visited a project in the Gala- pagos Islands one sunny day, I received a phone call. The proposal was immense: Help develop and lead an ambitious initiative to bring the U.S. gov- ernment’s collective resources to bear to increase electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Days later, I was on a plane to begin what has been an incredible journey, working with more than 170 public and private-sector partners to help bring first-time electricity to more than 74 million people through “Power Africa.” Power Africa aims to double access to electricity in sub- Saharan Africa to improve lives, strengthen economies, and help people emerge from poverty with self-reliance and dignity. More than 570 million people in Africa are without access to electric- ity. Power Africa’s goal is to drive power projects that will provide more than 30,000 megawatts (MW) of new power generation and help create 60 million new electricity connections for homes and businesses by 2030. If you estimate that there are, on average, five people per household, reaching Power Africa’s goal means turning lights on for approximately 300 million people. This great challenge held great opportunity, so in August 2013 my family and I moved to Nairobi, Kenya, home to Power Africa’s first headquarters and the first-ever U.S. presidential initiative to be headquartered outside of Washington, D.C. The Power Africa Model: An Interagency Approach Though the U.S. government has advised countries on electricity access for years, Power Africa’s approach is differ- ent. Flipping the traditional development model on its head, we have taken a demand-driven, transactional approach. We look at actual transactions between the private-sector entities working in the energy sector—such as investors, local entre- preneurs and manufacturers—and governments to identify obstacles, from environmental to regulatory, that prevent these transactions from moving forward. And we use the power of diplomacy to level the playing field for U.S. investments in the energy sector. The program is field-driven and has a broad geographic scope. Led by USAID, the 12 U.S. government agencies that implement Power Africa activities have provided financing and technical assis- tance to support the power sector in 40 countries over the past six years. We maintain a robust “boots on the ground” presence with hundreds of dedicated power experts situ- ated around the continent. In short, we are a team of roving diplomats, bankers, and tech- nical experts, all focused on the same mission—increasing access to electricity. The key to success is effec- tive coordination across multiple U.S. government agencies. The Power Africa Coordinator’s Office established and leads a regular interagency working group where we discuss openly the challenges and opportunities to reach our shared mission. While each agency has its own resources to support Power Africa’s mission, some agency resources are limited, and USAID frequently works through the Coordinator’s Office to help dif- ferent agencies step up their efforts. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, for example, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on power compacts in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, the Coordinator’s Office funded two deal teams that Power Africa aims to double access to electricity in sub- Saharan Africa so as to improve lives, strengthen economies, and help people emerge from poverty with self-reliance and dignity. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at left, and Power Africa Coordinator Andrew Herscowitz sign an MOU in Jerusalem in December 2017 for increased cooperation between the government of Israel and Power Africa to increase access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. POWERAFRICA