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UK and US partner to bring in-home power to millions of Africans
A new partnership between the U.S.s Power Africa initiative and U.K.s Energy Africa program is set to boost access to electricity across the continent by connecting private investment and partnering the countries' development networks. - photo by Daniel Lombardi
The effort to electrify Africa got a positive jolt recently when U.K. and United States development agencies agreed to join forces to provide affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030, the Guardian reported this week.

A lack of in-home power for 600 million Africans is holding back an entire continent, U.K. International Development Minister Nick Hurd said at a Dec. 7 announcement of the new partnership with the U.S. to help millions of people get access to clean energy, according to the U.K.'s Department for International Development (DFID).

According to the nonprofit ONE, Lack of electricity in Africa remains one of the biggest barriers to the regions development and prosperity, and continues to trap millions of people in extreme poverty. In the past 15 years, the number of people without electricity has increased in most of sub-Saharan Africa.

Thirty-seven countries in Africa have electrification rates below 50 percent, which results in diminished quality of life and hinders clinics and hospitals that need refrigeration to store vaccines and lights for operations. ONE also says that education is limited when students lack light in their homes to study in the evening.

The recent agreement between the U.S.s Power Africa initiative and U.K.s Energy Africa program is set to boost access to electricity across the continent by connecting private investment and partnering the two countries' development networks, USAID and DFID.

The development organizations hope to grow electrical access by growing the size and stability of the electrical grid as well as increasing the number of homes with off-grid power sources such as solar, according to the Guardian.

The Power Africa program will focus on large renewable energy projects that bolster the power grid. The Energy Africa initiative will focus on developing off-grid solar power for rural households that have no immediate hope of accessing the grid.

In the long run, Africas power infrastructure needs to grow dramatically, but in the meantime Energy Africa wants to offer solutions on a smaller scale. The question is: what can we do for the 60 percent now? Hurd asks. On-grid is massively important but most of the projections suggest thats going to take a long time and wont reach all the population."

Hurd said that both approaches were important to powering Africa. No one can tackle Africas energy challenge alone. We will only make progress if we work together. That is why this new partnership is so important.

President Obama launched Power Africa in 2013 under the United States International Development organization, according to All Africa. Power Africa started with an initial commitment of $7 billion, which has now leveraged nearly $43 billion in commitments from over 120 public and private partners for energy projects. More than three-quarters of these projects are in renewable technology.

There are also many non-governmental organizations working to electrify Africa with a variety of innovative devices that light up rural homes, far from the grid. One example is the Senegalese-American musician Akons recently launched foundation, AKON Lighting Africa, that hopes to use solar technology to improve livelihoods in 25 African countries by the end of 2016.

Another NGOs solution to lighting Africa is gravity. The organization GravityLight started with an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign in 2013 and is now working to start a factory in Kenya to manufacture its innovative light on a larger scale.
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