, DAR ES SALAAM, July 2 – US President Barack Obama Tuesday vowed an urgent effort to bring electric power to the impoverished heart of Africa, as he wrapped up a week long journey through the continent in Tanzania.
Obama also performed a sombre double act with George W. Bush, linking up to remember victims of an embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam in 1998, a day after praising his predecessor’s AIDS programme as a “crowning achievement.”
The US leader travelled to the Ubungo power plant, repaired with US funds, to bemoan the plight of 70 percent of Africans who lack reliable access to electricity, and to promote his new $7 billion effort to help.
“All of us have to feel a sense of urgency. If we are going to electrify Africa, we’ve got to do it with more speed,” Obama said.
The plan, dubbed “Power Africa,” leverages loan guarantees and private sector finance and aims to double access to electricity in sub Saharan Africa, where more than two thirds of the population lives in the dark.
It will initially be targeted on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Obama also had fun Tuesday trying out a device known as a “Socketball” which hides a generator inside a football and can be used to power a light or a cellphone using kinetic energy stored during a kick around.
The US leader juggled the ball on his foot and his head, and then demonstrated how it could be hooked up to a cellphone.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” he said.
“You can imagine this in villages all across the continent.”
Earlier, in an unusual meeting of the exclusive US presidents club on foreign soil, Obama met Bush, pioneer of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which saved millions of lives, and also treats tuberculosis and malaria.