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Dennis Hill

Electrifying the world

By Dennis Hill

Electric cooperative leaders from North Dakota and across the nation helped provide the support needed to pass HR 2548, the Electrify Africa Act (EAA). The vote occurred last month during the week when more than 2,500 electric cooperative leaders were in Washington, D.C., for the annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) legislative rally. These co-op leaders met with their Congressional delegations to urge them to support the EAA and to advocate for or against other legislation important to electric cooperatives. Although the Act passed 297 to 117, the vote was closer than it seemed, since it required two-thirds support (or 288 votes) to suspend the rules. We thank Rep. Kevin Cramer for his vote in support of the bill.

Why did our electric cooperatives choose to support this legislation, which will help provide electricity to about 50 million of the 589 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who have no access to it? It is because our cooperatives know that electricity will dramatically improve the lives of these African people, just as the Rural Electrification Act (REA) transformed rural life on our northern plains and elsewhere. The measure will also save taxpayers money by providing loan guarantees and using a coordinated strategy to bring resources to the region, much like the way REA helped electrify rural America.

The EAA is one of many efforts going on around the world to bring light to the land. For the past 50 years, NRECA has operated an international rural electrification program driven by the mission “to electrify the world, one village at a time.” To date, more than 100 million people in 40 countries now enjoy electric power because of this program.

This spring, two North Dakota lineworkers saw firsthand the quality of life improvements rural electrification can deliver. Josh Hoffman from Northern Plains Electric Cooperative and Jody Bruce from Verendrye Electric Cooperative spent two weeks in the impoverished nation of Haiti, helping build facilities to power a village. They describe their volunteer time as life-changing as it put in perspective what it must have been like for rural North Dakotans when the lights came on. VIDEO

While there are always debates about how much and what kind of U.S. foreign aid is most effective and appropriate in helping developing countries, when it comes to providing electricity, we know the benefits are clear in fostering greater productivity and dramatically improving the quality of life.

Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email to



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