President Obama’s multi-billion-dollar “Power Africa” initiative aims to double citizen access to electricity and other power sources across Sub-Saharan Africa. But it plays down the creation of a new public-private bureaucracy needed to overcome the pervasive corruption and incompetence of African governments and power utilities.
A significant portion of the Kenya-based endeavor is designed simply to administer the program. Segments include efforts to sway public and congressional opinion in favor of the initiative, according to a new planning document WND located through routine database research.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, will hire a contractor or contractors primarily to persuade African officials to change regulatory governance of power distribution, explains the draft Statement of Work, or SOW. A corresponding agency goal is to encourage, with contractor assistance, the escalation of private-sector investment in the region.
This regulatory and institutional strengthening and “early stage project support” will comprise 20 percent of USAID contractor efforts.
The USAID chief of party, or COP, and deputy COP, “who will be the overall managers of the contracts,” will reserve 10 percent of program funding for those government managerial functions, the document says.
The project’s overarching goal “is to remove the power constraint to economic growth and spur trade and investment, while mitigating long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trajectories,” the draft SOW says. “Power Africa will serve as a catalyst that will spark a transformation in Africa’s energy and power sectors.
“The immediate outcome will be increased supply of and access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power for millions of Africans and the enhanced responsible and transparent management of energy resources.”
Put in simpler terms, despite Obama’s ambitious and confident proclamations about the endeavor during his recent Africa trip, the document simultaneously affirms his vision and acknowledges the great difficulties the U.S. faces in executing such reforms.
Among other factors, the weak regulatory, policy and legal environments – made worse by continent-wide “corrupt and non-transparent bidding and contractual procedures” – serve as constraints to the sort of international investment Obama wants to bring about, the SOW says.
Political instability, a lengthy history of state-owned utilities and the “fear of change and competition” likewise deter private sector project-development and investment.
Consequently, the Obama administration expects U.S. taxpayers over the next five years to commit $7 billion toward stabilizing and correcting the investment roadblocks.
Whereas USAID will provide $285 million in technical assistance to remedy what it admits are typically corrupt and often incompetent governmental bodies and utility providers, the administration will direct the remainder of the funds through other U.S. agencies.
Among the entities are the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade & Development Agency – entities that the Cato Institute says should be “terminated” because they largely serve as monumental vehicles of “corporate welfare waste.”
Reminiscent of a prior scheme to sway journalists into providing favorable coverage of its Kenyan aid program – a document for which the agency abruptly blocked public access following WND coverage – the USAID prime contractor also must provide communications and outreach support that will be “directed at the American public, U.S. Congress” and elsewhere, the draft SOW says.
The previous communications plan spelled out in greater detail how the Obama administration sought to target specific journalists and media groups from whom it sought favors.
USAID designed the earlier “strategic plan” specifically for Kenyan aid programs, which had grown so large that the agency solicited more contractors to support projects already under way through other vendors.
The agency kept the program quiet for a year before repackaging it with decreased emphasis, according to publicly available documents, on the propaganda angle, as WND recently reported.
According to the Power Africa draft SOW, the selected vendor must devote 20 percent of its efforts under the prime contract towards “institutional support” for the program coordinator’s office.
Communications and outreach activities represent just one component of institutional support, which also entails tracking and coordinating activities among “Power Africa implementers and stakeholders” such as other U.S. agencies, host country governments and non-governmental organizations, the document says.
Although USAID’s East Africa Regional Mission in Nairobi, Kenya, is home to the coordinator’s office, Power Africa also has plans for Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.