President Barack Obama revealed a plan to bring electricity to sub-Saharan Africa on a massive scale Sunday, pledging $7 billion in Federal funds to a new program he said will bring “light where there is currently darkness.”
Under the President’s “Power Africa” program, the U.S. will commit to funding the expansion of the region’s infrastructure by undertaking projects that ambitiously seek to double the reach of the electrical grid. The President’s own assessment of the project pinpoints the overall capital investment needed to accomplish that goal at $300 billion.
Obama announced the initiative Sunday at a stop on his African itinerary in Cape Town, South Africa.
“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” said the President. “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.”
More than 85 percent of rural sub-Saharan Africa has no electrical infrastructure, affecting approximately two-thirds of the population.
Critics fret that such massive American investment in an area with a history of political instability (to say the least) could result in giving power players in regional conflicts a new, high-stakes trophy to justify more civil strife.