This morning, February 27th, 2014, the House Foreign Affairs Committee met to discuss, and eventually pass, H.R. 2548. Known as the Electrify Africa Act of 2013, this bipartisan bill sought to spur private industry investment in energy projects in Africa. The One Campaign gave crucial support to the sponsors during the research and writing phase of the bill.
During the markup section of the bill, which is available online at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr2548, the committee heard from Representatives Engel, Smith, Bass, Duncan, Meeks, Royce, Sherman, and Connolly in regards to the bill’s positive elements. As each Representative took the floor, the current energy plight in Africa was highlighted in some fashion. From the inefficient systems currently in place to the health concerns posed by the dirty fuels that rural villages resort to using, the point was to move the focus of African aid from purely military to economic. On a strategic note, attention was paid to the geopolitical importance of generating new trade contacts to counter Chinese attempts to step in as the primary aid-giver.
The main, and only opposition, came from Rep. Brooks. His testimony centered on the fragility of the American economy and the irresponsibility that comes with pursuing such altruistic causes. He suggested that the cause be shelved and attention paid to reducing government spending. Other opposition arose from Rep Grayson in regards to the proposed amendment to mandate surveys and oversight on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the organization that will funnel private industry investment into the continent. Citing the perceived lack of authority over OPIC, Rep. Grayson declared opposition to the amendment, but support for the bill otherwise.
After just 61 minutes, Committee Chairman Rep Royce called for a vocal vote. H.R. 2548, and its amendment, passed easily with only one “no”.
Jonathan Fredrickson is a TIDES Intern at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy in National Defense University