By Ben Geman - 07/02/13 12:22 PM EDT
President Obama on Tuesday promoted a new, multibillion-dollar Power Africa initiative to expand electricity access as a “win-win” for investors and the continent.
Obama spoke in Tanzania after touring a formerly idled power plant brought online with aid from the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corp., as well as General Electric and Symbion Power.
“[T]his is a win-win. It’s a win for Africans — families get to electrify their homes; businesses can run their plants; investors can say if we locate in an African country, that they’re going to be able to power up in a reliable way. All this will make economies grow,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript.
“It’s a win for the United States because the investments made here, including in cleaner energy, means more exports for the U.S. and more jobs in the U.S.,” he said.
The Power Africa initiative aims to eventually help to double power access in sub-Saharan Africa, with an initial target of bringing electricity to 20 million homes and businesses in coming years.
The administration is channeling $7 billion over five years in assistance through various U.S. agencies, including the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., and says it has secured $9 billion in private-sector commitments.
Earlier in the day Obama played with a Soccket ball, according to pool reports — a soccer ball, developed by two women from Harvard University, that captures and stores energy produced during play that can be used to power lamps and other devices.
He said in the speech that “development isn’t just about big projects.”
“Some of you saw the Soccket — the soccer ball that we were kicking around that generates electricity as it’s kicked. I don’t want to get too technical, but I thought it was pretty cool,” Obama said.
“And this is developed by two young women from the U.S., so Soccket turns one of the most popular games in Africa into a source of electricity and progress. And you can imagine this in villages all across the continent,” he said.