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Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in support of H.R. 2548, the Electrify Africa Act, which will help enrich the lives of the some 589 million people who live in an electricity depleted part of Africa.
This legislation will bring much needed support to a region that desperately needs it. As you are aware, 68 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to electricity. This bill, if enacted, would establish a base of infrastructure from which economies can grow, improve health and education outcomes, and contribute to sustainable poverty reduction.
I have visited Ghana and Liberia and seen firsthand the struggles that people deal with every day as they try to live a normal life. Power outages are a regular occurrence, while families may wait hours, days, or even weeks for electricity to be restored. A reliable electrical grid will help give businesses looking to make investments in Africa a greater degree of confidence in the infrastructure. The investments they make could help pull many out of poverty and hunger as local economies grow and people gain steady employment.
There are not just economic benefits to consider, though. Electricity is also crucial to health outcomes. Certain medicines and vaccines require strict temperature regulation that is impossible to achieve without access to reliable electricity. Lifesaving devices and monitoring devices also require energy to function. An improved electrical infrastructure could also reduce the prevalence of illnesses like respiratory diseases that come from the use of harmful household fuels. On average, there are more than 3 million annual premature deaths from respiratory disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Shockingly, this number is higher than the annual number of deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria.
One final benefit I want to highlight is the educational improvement achievable as schools with a dependable source of energy can harness technology to educate the rapidly-growing youth population in Africa. In some countries, more than half of the population is under the age of 25. Quality education for this generation of young people could further contribute to dynamism and innovation in their countries' economies.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2548 will bring many positive opportunities to a continent that is in great need of assistance. I truly appreciate you and the committee giving this bill the attention it deserves. Electrifying Africa will not only create a brighter future for those who live in the region, but will also strengthen Africa's independence, promote continued economic development, and ensure the continent remains a vibrant source of art, culture, and history for generations to come.
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