Skip to main content

Obama pledges $7 billion to upgrade power in Africa

By Faith Karimi and Matt Smith, CNN
July 1, 2013 -- Updated 0044 GMT (0844 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Project will provide "the energy to lift people out of poverty," Obama says
  • Fund will be distributed over next five years, White House says
  • The preliminary setup will include Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania
  • It comes as China aggressively engages the continent

(CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $7 billion Sunday to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa.

Funds from the initiative, dubbed Power Africa, will be distributed over the next five years. Obama made the announcement during his trip to South Africa, the continent's biggest economy.

"Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It's the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It's the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it's the connection that's needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy," he said.

Two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, including more than 85% of those living in rural areas, the White House said.

President Barack Obama kicks around an energy-generating soccer ball at a power plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday, July 2. Obama was pushing for partnerships in energy as he concluded a three-nation trip to Africa. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, third from right, joined Obama at the Symbion Power Plant at Ubungo. President Barack Obama kicks around an energy-generating soccer ball at a power plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday, July 2. Obama was pushing for partnerships in energy as he concluded a three-nation trip to Africa. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, third from right, joined Obama at the Symbion Power Plant at Ubungo.
Obama's tour of Africa
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Obama\'s tour of Africa Photos: Obama's tour of Africa
Woman who welcomed Obama to S. Africa
Obama and Mandela's relationship
Obamas invoke Mandela's legacy

"A light where currently there is darkness -- the energy to lift people out of poverty -- that's what opportunity looks like," Obama told students at Cape Town University. "So this is America's vision: a partnership with Africa for growth, and the potential for every citizen, not just a few at the top."

The program includes $1.5 billion from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and $5 billion from the Export-Import Bank, the White House said. Sub-Saharan Africa will need more than $300 billion to achieve universal electricity access by 2030, it said.

The preliminary setup will include Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.

"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," a White House statement said.

Obama's three-nation African trip started in Senegal and will end in Tanzania this week. The visit aims to bolster U.S. investment opportunities, address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy.

It comes as China aggressively engages the continent, pouring billions of dollars into it and replacing the United States as Africa's largest trading partner.

Obama applauded China's investment in Africa, saying he is "not threatened by it."

Africa's greater integration into the global economy will benefit everyone with the potential creation of new jobs and opportunities, he said.

"I'm here because I think the United States needs to engage with a continent full of promise and possibility," Obama said. "It's good for the United States. I welcome the attention that Africa is receiving from China, Brazil, India and Turkey."

However, he urged African officials to ensure that those who invest in the continent and its natural resources benefit Africans in terms of jobs and other assets.

Obama also visited Robben Island, where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela spent a majority of his 27-year imprisonment, on Sunday. And he spoke at Cape Town University, the site of a famous speech by Robert F. Kennedy at the height of apartheid in 1966.

Obama heads next to Tanzania, where he is scheduled to attend events until Tuesday.

5 things Obama wants young South Africans to know

CNN's Laura Bernardini contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2131 GMT (0531 HKT)
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT