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Power Africa

Photo by Travis Lupick

The single most important precondition for a country’s success is access to electricity. In a knowledge economy access to electricity – even a simple solar charger – is the foundation for everything; a game-changer.

Tony Blair

Power Africa was launched in 2013 by the US Government, to help expand access to electricity across the continent. Working with the world’s top companies, political leaders and financial institutions, the initiative aims to add 30,000 Megawatts of cleaner power generation across sub-Saharan Africa, and increase electricity access by adding 60 million new connections.

Without this kind of access small businesses cannot grow, children struggle to do their homework at night, and health care centres are extremely limited in their ability to operate. That's why we are supporting the large-scale Power Africa initiative. 

The Power Africa model is based on a transactions approach to power sector development. This focusses on supporting “first-of-their-kind” projects so that future transactions within countries can move ahead without external assistance. Under this approach, private sector companies play a leading role in bringing innovative solutions and capital to meet the growing demand for power across sub-Saharan Africa. Partner governments strengthen the enabling environment and investment climate, by effective leadership and sector governance, while ensuring better planning, procurement and regulation.

Solar power panels

Renewable energy sources are playing an important role in the expansion of electricity access in Africa. 


African governments play a critical role in realising the ambition of Power Africa: they will be responsible for creating an enabling environment where the forces of private investment and technology solutions can be leveraged to increase power supply and access. Governments are leading reform processes of their power sectors, making their domestic and regional markets more attractive for private investors and technology companies, while protecting consumers and satisfying long-term energy needs. Such reforms are complex and key elements need to be addressed, such as effective planning, procurement and regulation. All require increased strategic leadership and coordination by governments.

As a partner to USAID we are helping a number of governments as they carry out these reforms. Launched in 2014, the Senior Advisors Group programme supports and advises the political leadership in select Power Africa countries to plan and drive power sector development and access to electricity. It does this largely by focusing on enhancing government capacity to better plan and implement the reforms needed for the long term, sustainable development of the power sector.

Advisors assist governments to make sense of Power Africa and how they best leverage their various forms of support (and sometimes more broadly play an interface role between governments and development partners). They also help Power Africa to navigate what are often complex political dynamics in the energy sector and how it best channels support to governments.

When required, Senior Advisors, experienced high-level global and regional leaders, engage with Government leaders on their ongoing reform efforts, as part of the programme, and provide support at critical moments for power sector development, such as: how to design and communicate a politically-sensitive regulatory reform; how to structure the financing of new grid-based capacity; or how to make the country an attractive place for off-grid investors.

Tony Blair speaking

Tony Blair visits a solar power plant to find out more about the progress being made on electricity provision. 


Our support has mainly focused on supporting governments and regional institutions to put in place some of the most critical building blocks for a long term sustainable and efficient energy sector.

At present, we are supporting governments in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria and Senegal to undertake integrated sector-wide planning, procurement and regulation, build a financially sustainable ecosystem and define strategies towards universal access. On a more demand-driven basis, we also support building institutional capacity and enhancing sector management, and selectively work with our government partners to unlock barriers to the progress of specific projects. At the regional level, we also work with technical agencies and member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to drive strategic trading opportunities and advance regional power integration.

Recently, we have helped Guinea enter into agreements to sell a significant amount of its surplus hydropower to Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and The Gambia, with financial, economic and environmental benefits for all four countries. This power trade is part of a stepping stone towards a more integrated regional power market in West Africa, which will have large-scale benefits across the region (according to our own analysis presented in our West Africa Power Trade Outlook). Nigeria, where TBI collaborates with the Vice President’s Office and a wider set of key government institutions, a major milestone in the pathway towards a more sustainable domestic power sector was met in 2020, when a new tariff regime was enacted. As a consequence, public subsidies to the power sector have been reduced, and the sector has become more attractive for private investment and further expansion. In Senegal, where TBI is working with the Ministry of Energy, importers of renewable energy products – such as solar panels for both on- and off-grid technologies - can now get a VAT exemption if they comply with certain product standards set by the Government.