Satellite images of Africa by night show exactly how under-electrified the continent is compared to the rest of the world. According to Times Live, during his recent visit to South Africa US president Barack Obama announced a $7bn “Power Africa” initiative aimed at developing both traditional and renewable power solutions for the most under-powered nations in Africa, starting with Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. Obama also said the US will help Uganda and Mozambique to manage their oil and natural gas resources.
CNN reports that in a statement from the White House, it is said that “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.”
To put the electricity-generation challenge facing Africa in perspective, if South Africa were to be excluded in the statistics for the region, the World Bank’s research states that the total electricity generation capacity for the Sub-Saharan region is “only 28 Gigawatts, equivalent to that of Argentina”.
At his keynote address made at the University of Cape Town, Obama outlined his vision for an African-US relationship that goes “beyond aid to a partnership between America and Africa that would be a partnership of equals”, based on Africans’ ability to solve their own problems.
So while $7bn is far short of the “over $300bn needed to achieve universal electricity access by 2030” the White House says is required, it’s a very good start that doesn’t insult Africans, and instead provides the opportunity for her inhabitants to solve their own problems.
More electricity for Africa can only be a good thing, not only from a quality-of-life standpoint, but from an access to technology standpoint too, and from there the sky’s the limit.