Obama pledges $7B to power sub-Saharan Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at the airport in Senegal on June 26, 2013. Obama announced $7 billion to improve access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo by: USAID Southern Africa / CC BY-NC

Africa needs power, and U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to help.

Obama on Sunday announced in South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, a $7 billion plan to combat frequent blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of the population have no access to electricity, especially in rural areas.

“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 U.S. President told students in Cape Town.

Of the total, the lion’s share — $5 billion — will be provided by the the U.S. Export-Import Bank, with another $1.5 billion from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The Millennium Challenge Corporation plans to invest $1 billion through its country compacts, and USAID has pledged $285 million in technical assistance.

But $7 billion will not be enough for sub-Saharan Africa to have universal electricity by 2030. That will cost at least $300 billion, according to the International Energy Agency.

The plan will initially cover Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique, where Power Africa wants to add 10,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity to supply at least 20 million new households and businesses.

Obama is on a three-nation African tour that started in Senegal and will end in Tanzania.

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