Electricity remains very unreliable in Sub-Saharan Africa. An intermittent power supply particularly affects the medical profession and the quality of treatment available to patients. Indeed, two-thirds of medical facilities in the region don't have reliable power and about a quarter have no power at all. This becomes especially problematic when shipping COVID-19 vaccines that require refrigeration. As U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power noted in a recent speech, “Last mile challenges like cold chain storage, power outages, are causing millions of vaccines to be wasted and thrown away.”
The lack of access to stable sources of power aren't simply inconvenient - it can prove deadly. The instability of electricity prevents doctors from conducting more complicated procedures. It can inhibit their ability to provide emergency care, and it can lead to more preventable and unnecessary deaths.
Solutions to these electrification issues, said Administrator Power, “shouldn't be dependent on old sources of power like gas generators, that make environmental and health standards worse.” As a part of USAID’s global COVID-19 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 the partners in this effort is a Lesotho-based startup called OnePower. In collaboration with a South African-based company, they are shipping solar panels to remote rural health clinics.
USAID is looking forward to expanding electrification efforts throughout Sub-Saharan Africa through a new program called 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,” said Administrator Power, “so we are partnering with more than 20 members from the private sector to achieve this goal.” This alliance will provide hundreds of thousands of people throughout Sub-Saharan Africa with better, greener, and more digitally-connected healthcare.