On the Super Bowl, Power Africa, and Feed the Future

February 7, 2016 By Sung Lee

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us! Did you know that televisions alone will use more than 11 million kilowatt-hours of energy during the game?

As you turn on your TV, it’s worth taking a moment to note that Congress had a rare and important moment of agreement this week: increasing access to electricity in Africa.

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act, which sends the bill to President Obama’s desk for his signature. The bill creates a sustainable framework for the Power Africa initiative, which represents a new strategic model of development, leveraging public and private partnerships to deliver better results.

Powering Africa

Worldwide, more than 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity. In Kenya, electricity consumption is only about 155 kilowatts-hours per capita, compared with more than 10,000 kilowatts-hours per capita in the U.S.

While sub-Saharan Africa has been home to some of the fastest growing economies in recent years, lack of access to electricity limits economic growth and human development. Africa’s energy needs are projected to quadruple by 2040, costing more than $800 billion to connect the African continent to energy sources by 2030.

Power Africa has set the ambitious goal of doubling access to electricity by 2030. Since its launch in 2013, the U.S.’s initial $7 billion commitment helped spur almost $43 billion in commitments from more than 120 public and private groups in partnership— a great example of this new foreign assistance model.

Off Grid Electric, a company based in Tanzania and run by an American, transformed an initial Power Africa grant into a combined $23 million in additional private financing. As a result, the company is now powering more than 200,000 homes, helping families improve their productivity, increase income, and creating potential new markets for American goods and businesses.

Feeding the Future

The Super Bowl not only highlights America’s energy consumption, but is also the second-largest day for food consumption across the U.S. People will consume almost 2.9 million pounds of potato chips, more than 1 billion chicken wings, and 325 million gallons of beer.

The challenges of feeding the planet are widely known. Almost 800 million people do not have enough food to live healthy and productive lives. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, agricultural production must increase by 60 percent and an estimated $83 billion investment will be needed annually to meet global food demand by 2050— a task that cannot be achieved through official assistance alone.

Like Power Africa, Feed the Future harnesses the power of public-private partnerships to fight global hunger and poverty. Since created, Feed the Future has leveraged more than $450 million in private sector investments, forming almost 4,000 public-private partnerships to help reduce hunger and poverty.

One such partnership between USAID and Starbucks provides long-term loans to smallholder farmers. This partnership allows thousands of coffee farmers gain access to much needed credit to expand their production, and build resilience in business supply chain.

As we take time to partake in a great American tradition this weekend, we can also be proud of country’s commitment to helping make the world a better place — here at home and across the globe.