Administrator Samantha Power at the Launch of Power Africa’s Healthcare Electrification & Telecommunication Alliance

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

MARK CARRATO: Good morning. I'm Mark Carrato, and it's my privilege to lead Power Africa as coordinator.  It's my honor to welcome you today to the launch of the Healthcare Electrification and Telecommunications Alliance.  And it's my pleasure to introduce to you our opening speaker, USAID administrator, Samantha Power.  She's a namesake champion of Power Africa, but also an ardent champion of climate change, national security, and international development. Recognized the world over as a leader of consequence, she combines her seminal voice of conscience and moral clarity with unparalleled knowledge and tireless commitment to principled American engagement.  Administrator Power, thank you ever so much for your inspired leadership and for joining us here today.  We know your hectic schedule only affords you a few minutes with us right now, but we deeply appreciate how you've been with us every step of the way -- and will continue to be so.  So, over to you.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much Mark, really appreciate it.  As you all know, Mark oversees, here at USAID, one of the world's largest global development partnerships, Power Africa.  And as he noted, fortunately, that was not named in my honor.  I wish I could claim credit for all of the tremendous work that Mark and his team are doing with more than 160 private sector partners. They're overseeing now $56 billion aimed at electrifying Sub-Saharan Africa. And there's so much we can learn from Power Africa as well as we embark on scale.

I'd also like to welcome our Assistant Secretary for Africa, Molly Phee; U.N. Special Representative for Energy Access and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, Damilola Ogunbiyi, and of course, all of our healthcare and telecommunications partners.  It's just great to be joined by all of you today, and I'm looking forward to your insights during the panel discussion and continued partnership.

Here in the U.S., when we go to a hospital or a doctor's office, electricity is not at the top of our minds.  It is not typically a concern that the lights will go out during a procedure or that the machines keeping someone alive will stop functioning. We don't generally think about how high-speed internet allows doctors to communicate with a global network of healthcare professionals who may have a solution to curing our illness.  And many of us, who very eagerly went out and got our COVID vaccine, which was -- is available almost everywhere here in the U.S. -- we simply got in our cars or walked a few blocks, and didn't worry that when we got to our destination we'd be turned away because the refrigeration system went out -  the doses had spoiled. Throughout much of the rest of the world, and specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, these concerns are unfortunately all too common when seeking medical treatment. Two-thirds of medical facilities in the region don't have reliable power and about a quarter have no power at all.  And despite the efforts made by our government and our partners to ship billions of vaccines around the world - the shipping is only half the battle. Last mile challenges like cold chain storage, power outages, are causing millions of vaccines to be wasted and thrown away. Lack of access to stable sources of power aren't simply inconvenient. The repercussions are deadly. The inability to vaccinate the world not because of a lack of demand, but because of logistical hang ups, is going to lead to more deaths and potentially more variants popping up.  This is a major challenge and one we simply have to get to the bottom of. The instability of electricity prevents doctors from conducting those complicated procedures. It can inhibit their ability to provide emergency care and it can lead to more preventable and unnecessary deaths. The solutions to these electrification issues shouldn't be dependent on old sources of power like gas generators, that make environmental and health standards worse.  They're instead found through clean energy, like solar and like wind. In partnership with the private sector, USAID is helping deliver these clean energy solutions. As a part of our global COVID response, Power Africa is awarding more than $2.6 million in grants to nine solar energy companies, to power over 220 off-the-grid clinics. One of our partners in this effort is a Lesotho-based startup called OnePower. In collaboration with a South African-based company, together, they are shipping solar panels to rural health clinics located in steep mountains or down hundreds of miles of dirt roads.

To take just one example; OnePower transformed a clinic in the mountains of Lesotho by providing it with constant and reliable electricity. The clinic no longer runs on one loud diesel generator that disturbs sick patients and constantly fails. The new solar panels allow nurses to use the lights at night, rather than a flashlight, and it gives them uninterrupted access to life-saving equipment in emergency situations. Because of our partners, we are able to deliver a cleaner, more sustainable, and more effective healthcare system, and we've got a great opportunity to expand these solutions throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, which is why I am truly excited to announce the launch of Power Africa's Healthcare Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance.  As part of President Biden's Global Infrastructure Initiative, this alliance will electrify more than 10,000 clinics in the next five years. These clinics will be built on reliable, renewable energy platforms and will be digitally connected, allowing them to better communicate and collaborate with other clinics and doctors in the region.

Development solutions this grand cannot be done alone, so we are partnering with more than 20 members from the private sector to achieve this goal.This alliance will impact hundreds of thousands of people throughout Sub-Saharan Africa who will receive better, greener, and more digitally-connected healthcare. I am excited by the promise that the Healthcare Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance presents, and I look forward to further collaboration with our partners. Now, we have the pleasure to hear from voices in the field who are impacted by the delivery of clean and stable power in Africa.  

Thank you so much.


Last updated: August 01, 2022

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