Obama announces $12 billion investment in African energy sector

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President Obama announced $12 billion in new commitments to invest in African energy and electricity infrastructure leveraged through a White House initiative.

The investments are part of the Power Africa program the Obama administration announced in June 2013, which originally aimed to provide 10,000 megawatts of electricity for 20 million homes and businesses in six sub-Saharan African countries. But Obama said the effort has been so successful — the new commitments brought total funding to $26 billion — that the White House is tripling the goal to 30,000 megawatts, enough to power 60 million homes.

"So, today we’re raising the bar. We decided we’re meeting our goal too easily, Zuma, so we’ve got to go up," Obama, referencing South African President Jacob Zuma, said Tuesday at the United States-Africa Business Forum in Washington.

Of the $12 billion in new financing, $5 billion will come from the World Bank, $1 billion from Sweden and the rest from private sector firms. The U.S. government, so far, has pledged $7 billion of investments for the first five-year phase that runs through 2018.

The Power Africa initiative has included a focus on building natural gas-fired generation, along with small-scale renewable energy projects that can exist without a large, centralized grid — a key to providing access in rural communities distant from more dense population centers.

"We want to partner with Africa to build the infrastructure that economies need to flourish. And that starts with electricity, which most Africans still lack," Obama said.

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