Washington, D.C. – Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks, as prepared for delivery, at today’s full committee markup of H.R. 2548, the Electrify Africa Act of 2014.

The following remarks were given on H.R. 2548:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this mark-up of the Electrify Africa Act. I am very pleased to be the lead Democratic cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation, which addresses a critically important issue.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most energy-deficient regions of the world, with nearly 70% of the population – more than half a billion people -- lacking access to electricity. In some countries that figure is even higher: in the DRC 85% of the population has no power; in Kenya 82%; and in Uganda, 92%. Those are truly staggering statistics.

“The lack of reliable electricity has many negative consequences. In desperation, people burn anything they can find for heat and cooking: wood, plastic, trash and other toxic materials. These dirtier fuels cause greater harm to people’s health and to the environment. Rural populations living off the grid require kerosene and cooking fuel to be transported from larger cities, making essential commodities cost more for those who are already struggling to survive.

“Many businesses have a hard time succeeding because they are forced to pour expensive diesel fuel into generators day and night or deal with constant power outages from unreliable electrical grids. Hospitals can’t provide adequate services because they are unable to provide consistent cold storage, light, or power for life-saving devices. And the list goes on and on.

“This bill begins to tackle these challenges in a comprehensive way. It directs the Executive Branch to develop a strategy to increase electrification in Africa and to employ U.S. assistance programs to help accomplish that goal. This long-term strategy will focus not only on building more power plants, but also on increasing African government accountability and transparency, improving regulatory environments, and increasing access to electricity in rural and poor communities through small, renewable energy projects.

“Only by addressing all of these challenges together will people in Africa finally have access to electricity that will allow them to grow their economies and ultimately reduce their reliance on foreign aid.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is filled with dynamic individuals trying to make their countries better, and I hope this bill supports their entrepreneurial spirit.

“Mr. Chairman, our staffs have worked together in a bipartisan fashion to draft this bill and refine it with the substitute now before us. I appreciate your deep commitment to the people of sub-Saharan Africa, and I look forward to working with you to move this bill forward.”

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Watch Rep. Engel's Opening Statement Here