Obama unveils $7 billion initiative to improve power in Africa

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(CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $7 billion Sunday to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa.

Funds from the initiative, dubbed Power Africa, will be distributed over the next five years.

“More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity, and more than 85% of those living in rural areas lack access,” the White House said in a statement.

Sub-Saharan Africa will need more than $300 billion to achieve universal electricity access by 2030, the statement said.

The preliminary set up will include Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria , Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.

“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,” the statement said.

Obama’s announcement came during his trip to South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy. The visit is part of his three-nation trip that started in Senegal and will end in Tanzania this week.

The trip aims to bolster U.S. investment opportunities, address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy.

It comes as China aggressively engages the continent, pouring billions of dollars into it and replacing the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner.

Obama applauded China’s investment in Africa, saying he is “not threatened by it.”

Africa’s greater integration into the global economy will benefit everyone with the potential creation of new jobs and opportunities, he said.

“I’m here because I think the United States needs to engage with a continent full of promise and possibility,” Obama said. “It’s good for the United States. I welcome the attention that Africa is receiving from China, Brazil, India and Turkey.”

However, he urged African officials to ensure that those who invest in the continent and its natural resources benefit Africans in terms of jobs and others.

Before he leaves South Africa on Sunday, Obama will also visit Robben Island, where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela spent a majority of his 27 years behind bars. He will also address citizens at Cape Town University, the same site of a popular speech by Robert F. Kennedy at the height of apartheid in 1966.

He then heads to Tanzania, where he is scheduled to attend events until Tuesday.

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