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Obama Unveils Massive Electric Power Initiative for Africa
July 1, 2013

Obama Unveils Massive Electric Power Initiative for Africa

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
IIP Staff Writer
June 30, 2013

“A light where currently there is darkness; the energy needed to lift people out of poverty — that’s what opportunity looks like,” Obama said in announcing the Power Africa initiaive.

President Obama June 30 announced a massive initiative to double access to electricity across sub-Saharan Africa. The United States will support the effort with a $7 billion investment over the next five years.

Obama said the aim is to provide electric power to millions of Africans, enhancing their lives and livelihoods.

“Today I am proud to announce a new initiative. We’ve been dealing with agriculture, we’ve been dealing with health,” Obama said at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. “Now we’re going to talk about power — Power Africa — a new initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The president said that in partnership with African nations, the United States will develop new sources of energy. Obama said America’s vision is a partnership with Africa that unleashes achievable growth.

“We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms,” he said. “We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid.”

“A light where currently there is darkness; the energy needed to lift people out of poverty — that’s what opportunity looks like.”

The president unveiled “Power Africa” in his address to a crowd of 1,100 at the University of Cape Town, part of a weeklong trip to three African nations including Senegal and Tanzania.

According to presidential adviser Gayle Smith, more than two-thirds of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity, including 85 percent living in rural areas. The United States and its private sector partners in the first phase will focus on electric power expansion in six countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania, according to the White House.

Power Africa will also partner with Uganda and Mozambique on oil and natural gas resources management.

Power Africa, the White House said, will bring a broad range of U.S. government tools to support investment in Africa’s energy sector. These tools include provision of policy and regulatory best practices, pre-feasibility support and capacity building, long-term financing, insurance, guarantees, credit enhancements and technical assistance.

Private sector giants — including General Electric, Symbion Power, Heirs Holdings, Aldwych International, Harith General Partners, Husk Power Systems and the African Finance Corporation — are expected to make an additional $9 billion in initial commitments, the White House says. They will help support the development of more than 8,000 megawatts of new electricity generation in sub-Saharan Africa.

The International Energy Agency estimates that sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030, the White House says. “Only with greater private sector investment can the promise of Power Africa be realized,” the White House added.

Obama also said the United States will bolster access to food and health programs across the continent with the goal of reducing poverty and illness plaguing many areas of Africa.

Earlier in Cape Town, Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha visited Robben Island prison, where the ailing former president of South Africa, 94-year-old Nelson Mandela, was confined in a tiny cell during the apartheid era. South African politician Ahmed Kathrada, who was also held in the prison for nearly two decades and was an anti-apartheid activist, guided Obama and the first family on their tour of the prison complex. Kathrada was also Obama’s guide when he first visited Robben in 2006.

Obama wrote in the prison guest book, “On behalf of our family, we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

After their visit to Robben Island, Obama visited the Archbishop Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Center to highlight efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the role the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has contributed. Obama met with Tutu and young students at the community center.