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Obama pledges $7 billion to doubling electricity access in Africa

Obama pledges $7 billion to doubling electricity access in Africa


President's five-year plan for sub-Saharan Africa to be unveiled at a speech in Cape Town Sunday

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President Barack Obama today is expected to unveil an ambitious $7 billion initiative aimed at doubling access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. As the Associated Press reports, Obama will announce his "Power Africa" initiative in Cape Town, South Africa Sunday, in what administration officials describe as the signature speech of his weeklong trip to Africa.

The president's plan will see the US invest $7 billion in clean and efficient power generation in sub-Saharan Africa, with private sector companies such as General Electric and Symbion Power committing an additional $9 billion. According to the White House, more than two-thirds of the population in sub-Saharan Africa currently lack access to electricity; among those living in rural areas, 85 percent are without power.

Two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa is without power

The Power Africa initiative wil will at first focus on six countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. According to Bloomberg, the goal is to add more than 10,000 megawatts of clean and efficient electricity generation to these countries, while expanding power access to at least 20 million new homes and businesses. The US will also work with Mozambique and Uganda on managing supplies of oil and gas.

"These countries have set ambitious goals in electric power generation, and are making the utility and energy sector reforms to pave the way for investment and growth," the White House said in a statement Sunday.

The Obama administration hopes that Power Africa will provide a much-needed boost to the region's infrastructure, laying the groundwork for both businesses and schools to prosper. But it's a somewhat modest first step. According to the White House, achieving universal electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2030 will require an estimated $300 billion in investment.

Obama will also discuss US initiatives to increase food and health access across the continent, echoing the forward-looking message of economic development and prosperity that he has stressed throughout the week. Much of the president's trip has been overshadowed by the health of ailing former president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who remains in critical condition at a hospital in Pretoria. Obama is expected to reference Mandela throughout his speech at Cape Town University Sunday, drawing parallels between South Africa's transformative past and the challenges that the country currently faces.