Editors' note: This piece is co-authored by Niger Innis
“I see Africa as a … partner with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children,” President Obama declared in Ghana last July.
However, three months later, the President signed an executive order requiring that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and other federal agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their projects by 30% over the next ten years. The order undermines the ability of Sub-Saharan African nations to achieve energy, economic and human rights progress.
Ghana is trying to build a 130-MW gas-fired power plant, to bring electricity’s blessings to more of its people, schools, hospitals and businesses. Today, almost half of Ghanaians never have access to electricity, or get it only a few hours a week, leaving their futures bleak.
Most people in Ghana are forced to cook and heat with wood, crop wastes or dung, says Franklin Cudjoe, director of the Imani (Hope) Center for Policy and Education, in Accra. The indoor air pollution from these fires causes blindness, asthma and severe lung infections that kill a million women and young children every year. Countless more Africans die from intestinal diseases caused by eating unrefrigerated, spoiled food.
But when Ghana turned to its United States “partner” and asked OPIC to support the $185-million project, OPIC refused to finance even part of it – thus adding as much as 20% to its financing cost. Repeated across Africa, these extra costs for meeting “climate change prevention” policies will threaten numerous projects, and prolong poverty and disease for millions.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 800 million people, 80% of whom live on less than $2.50 per day. Over 700 million people – twice the population of the USA and Canada combined – rarely or never have access to the lifesaving, prosperity-creating benefits of electricity, notes Cudjoe.
Even in South Africa, the most advanced nation in this region, 25% of the populace still has no electricity. Pervasively insufficient electrical power has meant frequent brownouts that have hampered factory output and forced gold and diamond mines to shut down, because of risks that miners would suffocate in darkness deep underground. The country also suffers from maternal mortality rates 36 times higher than in the US, and tuberculosis rates 237 times higher.