By Peter Uzoho
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded $2.6 million (N1.2 billion) grant to nine energy companies including a Nigerian firm, Havenhill Synergy Limited, to electrify 288 rural health facilities in Africa, which lack reliable access to power.
The grant was awarded on Tuesday through Power Africa, a U.S. Government-led initiative that brings together 12 government agencies, development partners and private sector companies, with the goal of doubling access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The grant was launched during a virtual event which highlighted the importance of healthcare electrification for COVID-19 response and recovery.
The awardees included Havenhill Synergy Ltd (Nigeria), KYA-Energy Group (Togo), Zuwa Energy (Malawi), OffGridBox (Rwanda) Nanoé (Madagascar) as well as PEG, Solarworks, Power and Muhanya Solar Limited for other parts of Africa.
The Acting Coordinator, Power Africa, Mark Carrato, said that USAID was doing everything possible to help keep the sector afloat because “these are challenging times for companies operating in emerging markets.”
According to him, when it comes to universal energy access and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) seven, the world can’t afford to go backwards.
Carrato said: “Since the start of the pandemic, Power Africa has successfully worked with local industry associations to compel governments to declare off grid energy as an essential service.
“Despite the economic downturn in the last quarter, we managed to raise $65 million for the energy sector in forms of grants, loans and equity, providing much needed liquidity for a range of companies.
“We know that as a result of the economic downturn, brought by COVID-19, many energy access companies are struggling right now.
“We’re working with a group of investors and development partners so that more companies can receive low interest concessional loans in order to maintain staff and service existing customers.
“We are also helping African governments put in place the legal and regulatory frameworks needed to attract off-grid energy and base investments.”
Also, the Counselor to USAID, Chris Milligan, said that the agency was highlighting its mode of operation through partnerships with governments and the private sector that empower communities to solve their own challenges.
According to him, the agency values its partnership with African governments which improve the well being of millions on the continent.
“As Americans, we stand together not only with the people in Africa, but with countless others across the globe to help countries and their people address their development challenges.
“We know the impact of COVID-19 goes far beyond just the health impacts, but also on the social and economic well being of many vulnerable households.
“Without reliable and affordable electricity, it is even more difficult for these communities to recover from the wide ranging impacts of COVID-19.
“Functioning healthcare facilities are essential, not only for individual’s health, but also for their economic and overall wellbeing,” Milligan said.
The counselor added that without electricity, health systems struggle to meet the needs of their communities, no matter the dedication of healthcare workers.