USAID on Power Africa: 'We are not doing oil'

A power line passes through a village in Cameroon called Mafa Kilda, where there is no electricity. Power Africa, a U.S. initiative, aims to double the access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo by: Philippe Semanaz / CC BY-SA

On Tuesday, the U.S. Agency for International Development amended its Power Africa request for comments in response to questions and concerns from potential partners.

The document also states (in capital letters) in a footnote: “We are not doing oil.”

Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa coordinator at USAID, has publicly lauded the initiative’s “transactional approach,” and the request for comments clarifies what that means.

“For the purposes of Power Africa, a transaction is a defined generation, transmission, or distribution project. It also includes gas production concessions, gas pipelines and associated infrastructure, and access projects including minigrids,” says the document.

The definition — as well as the finding that newly-discovered off-shore natural gas reserves in Ghana and Tanzania “have the potential to drive economic growth and transform the power sectors in those countries” — thus clarifies that Power Africa will lean heavily on natural gas production to hit its target of 10,000 new megawatts of electricity in the sub-Saharan region.

The request for comments, released in late July, was amended on Tuesday after contractors submitted questions and concerns related to their interest in partnering with the U.S. government on African energy production.

In response to a question about whether USAID will require implementing partners to subcontract, or whether the agency will issue direct awards to local/regional implementing partners, the agency replied: “USAID plans to identify whether or not local/regional capability exists to undertake the tasks included in the SOW, however, USAID encourages local and/or regional implementing partners as well as international firms to reply to this RFI. We are not indicating a requirement for subcontracting here.”

The agency also dismisses fears about the protection of proprietary business information, assuring potential partners that information they submit related to their capabilities and business plans will not be made public.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.

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