In Cape Town speech, Obama to announce ‘Power Africa’ program

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – President Obama on Sunday will announce a new assistance program to provide up to $7 billion in U.S. aid and resources to help East Africa nations gain more access to electricity, White House officials said.

The program, called Power Africa, aims to double power access in the sub-Saharan part of the continent, which would not only help residents but also convince private sector companies to increase in new economic ventures in the region, the officials said.

Gayle Smith, director for development and democracy at the National Security Council, said two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. The figure reaches 85 percent in rural areas.

“If you want lights so kids can study at night or you can maintain vaccines in a cold chain, you don’t have that,” she said.

The administration is also eyeing private companies that want to invest on the continent but are holding back because of fears about limited power supplies.

Smith estimated it would cost $300 billion to fully supply the continent with power. The $7 billion initial commitment is funding, but also technical assistance, grants, and some tools for risk mitigation, she said.

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Washington Post · June 29, 2013