Obama’s new fix-Africa-toolbox includes one shiny new tool: private investment
July 3, 2013 Editor 0
President Obama wants America’s relationship with Africa to move beyond aid. This past week, he laid out a vision for new partnership with the continent that puts the private sector front and center.
Major American involvement in Africa fell off the President’s list of priorities during his first term, but Obama’s June 30th speech in Cape Town praised the continent’s economic growth as a foundation for private American investment:
Many of the fastest-growing economies in the world are here in Africa, where there is an historic shift taking place from poverty to a growing, nascent middle class. Fewer people are dying of preventable disease. More people have access to health care. More farmers are getting their products to market at fair prices. From micro-finance projects in Kampala, to stock traders in Lagos, to cell phone entrepreneurs in Nairobi, there is an energy here that can’t be denied — Africa rising.
The need for development is clear. More than 60 percent of Africans are under 35 years old and over two thirds of sub-Saharan households get by without reliable electric power.
The President’s new “Power Africa” initiative aims to change that, creating a win-win situation for American business and African development. He wants private sector resources and know-how to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa:
We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources. We’re going to partner with the private sector, who themselves have committed more than $9 billion in investment. And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy. We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms. We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid. And we’ll support clean energy to protect our planet and combat climate change. So, a light where currently there is darkness; the energy needed to lift people out of poverty — that’s what opportunity looks like.
President Obama is shifting the inertia of U.S. aid to a philosophy that makes private sector investment the primary tool for growth. To succeed, he’ll need to help develop markets that have been distorted by years of war, foreign aid intervention and political turmoil. Unfortunately, these deep and complex problems can’t be reversed by building a new power plant.President Obama’s “Power Africa” program aims to increase US business involvement in African development. Photo: Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) (flickr)
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