Category Archives: Final

A.Nicot – Final: Power Africa

President Obama,

Your initiative to provide power to Africa, aptly if uncreatively named “Power Africa,” has raised in my mind a few concerns concerning your approach to the evident problem of undeveloped energy infrastructure on the African continent. Firstly, I note in your “factsheet” on the project that you present on the White House website that there is a definite focus on private sector development of this problem. I acknowledge the heavy role (7 billion dollars worth of financial support) that the U.S. government and its dependent corporations will be playing in this initiative, but private corporations will be providing most of the financing (9 billion dollars worth), notably using their own technology and their own methods of financing various projects.

For example, does General Electric’s specific goal to bring 5,000 megawatts of new, affordable energy” to two countries, Tanzania and Ghana, not leave them a considerable leeway to invest in a variety of things which could ensure a future profitable market in these countries, especially if they bring and use their own technology and methods, and expert staff. Doesn’t the African Finance Corporation, a South African state-owned mining company, have specific interests of its own to “invest $250 million in the power sectors of Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria,” besides what is mentioned as a “catalyst” of investment into sub-Saharan power infrastructure?

President Obama, it doesn’t seem like the concept as you present it leaves much room for transparency of how these investments are conducted, instead laying the issue of accountability squarely at the feet of African governments, admittedly corrupt and in many ways dysfunctional. Yes, African states need to ensure that the money earned from these ventures and the power generated is used for the benefit of their peoples – this is why the state exists if it participates in energy projects such as this – but should not the contributing members of this project, private AND American government-related, also be held accountable for their role? Will we see exactly how the American government intends to spend its money? “[providing] $285 million in technical assistance, grants and risk mitigation to advance private sector energy transactions and help governments adopt and implement the policy, regulatory, and other reforms necessary to attract private sector investment in the energy and power sectors,” could really mean a lot of things considering the vague outline presented in the sentence. Also it’s focus seems on attracting the private sector. A sound strategy perhaps, but would these private investors be largely American corporations and organizations?

Nothing i international politics is given for free, and it’s obvious the American government is primarily seeking in Africa the development of markets for its own exploitation purposes. It was done in Europe from 1918 onwards, it was done in Asia (along with Europe) to force open the Orient in the 19th Century, and it was done in Latin America as well throughout the Cold War. There is not much shame in trying to carry American economic interests, be they at the detriment even of local people, but one would appreciate either an allusion to this or if you’d be so bold, a comment on how this would not be the case. Pretending a mission is purely humanitarian does not befit a government of the stature of the U.S.A.’s.

Yours respectfully etc.

Aurelien Nicot

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Obama’s Power Play look at satellite imagery of the world at night is all you need to realize that Africa simply does not have enough access to power.  A study by The World Bank states that “the region has adequate generation capacity, limited electrification, low power consumption, unreliable services, and high costs. It also faces a power sector financing gap on the order of $21 billion a year. It spends only about a quarter of what it needs to spend on power, much of this on operating expenditure required to run the continent’s high-cost power systems, leaving little for the huge investments needed to provide a long-term solution.” (Eberhard, Rosnes, Shkaratan, Vennemo)  While some question its motives, President Obama’s new initiative Power Africa is exactly that.  With $ billion dollars being pledged by the federal government and $9 billion coming from the private sector, this plan aims to double the power capacity of sub-Saharan Africa.

“Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to Africa for Africans.”  This is the tag line Obama used in Tanzania to sell this new project (BBC).  And by all accounts, it seems that is exactly what Power Africa looks to do.  Aside from billions allocated for the creation and operation of large scale coal and gas plants, there is also a portion of money being set aside for the development of mini and off grid energy solutions.  These include “grants of up to $100,000 to African-owned and operated enterprises to develop or expand the use of proven technologies for off-grid electricity benefiting rural and marginal populations,” as well as the installation of small biomass generators the provide power for small communities (Power Africa).  These local power solutions are particularly helpful as they give the power over power to communities.  This in turn empowers the community to come together behind other projects and cuts out any potential governmental interference that could result in inefficiency.

While decentralized power solutions can provide massive relief to outlying communities, the focus should be on long term solutions.  The study by The World Bank goes on to say that “economic returns to investments in cross-border transmission are particularly high. But reaping the promise of regional trade depends on a handful of major exporting countries raising the large volumes of finance needed to develop generation capacity for export.” (Eberhard, Rosnes, Shkaratan, Vennemo)  Whats great is that African investors are starting to realize this.   Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu is backing Power Africa with $2.5 billion.  He believes that the energy market has huge potential and is getting behind it.  This kind of African investment in Africa is exactly what Power Africa hopes to facilitate and is what needs to happen for sustainable long term development (Jorgic).

Now Power Africa is certainly not without critics.  Many have called this the new face of imperialism, citing a recent increase in Chinese aid to the region as the reason for Americas sudden push.  Others still accuse the government of trying to exploit Africa’s natural resources.  This all rests on the notion that any benefit gained from the aid providing country is wrong, that we must be completely altruistic.  But so what if we gain from creating a more stable Africa?  Obama has gone on record saying that “Frankly, we don’t need energy from Africa,” with many analysts saying he is going for a more Brazil style of investment.  By improving the economy in one area you create a new market for your own nations goods, in turn strengthening the global economy (Business Daily).  “We are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance but on trade and partnership,” said the president during his Tanzania speech.  Traditional development efforts usually involve throwing money at a problem.  By taking this guided approach that looks to bring local governments into the fold we can see a new model of aid approaching that is far more sustainable in the long term.  The bottom line is that money makes the world go round.  By ensuring multiple sides gain from economic development we are ensuring that more aid will be provided in the future and that what is spent is spent effectively.  I have high hopes for Power Africa and think it will surely lead to a brighter future.

Works Cited
Eberhard, Anton, Orvik Rosnes, Maria Shkaratan, and Hakon Vennemo. “Africa’s Power Infrastructure.” World Bank ELibrary. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.
“FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.
Jorgic, Drazen. “Obama’s Power Africa Backer Calls Weak Competition an Investment Incentive.” N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.
“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
Stoddard, Ed. “Business Day LIVE.” Business Day Live. N.p., 2 July 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.

Dear Obama Administration

An Open Letter to the Obama Administration

On June 30th, the Obama administration announced the “Power Africa” initiative. This initiative plans to “double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa “(“Fact Sheet”) by committing “more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years” (“Fact Sheet”). The goal of this mission was to bring power to connect their people to the promise of the 21st century (“Africa”). This initiative promises “access to electricity that is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business “(“Africa”).
On the surface, this initiative looks and sounds good, very similar to many humanitarian aid organization projects. However, as in War Games and Emergency Sex, we learn that decisions are not always as they appear on the surface. In order to get a true picture of the situation and determine if any ulterior motives might exist, we must be willing to research and dig.

Just days before the announcement of this initiative, Obama appeared in Johannesburg in front of a town meeting. In this meeting, he praised former South African President Nelson Mandela, spoke of the bright future of Africa’s economy, provided a warning in the fight against terrorism, discussed America’s ambitions, and discussed the issue of global warming. It seems as though his trip and speech in Africa served as a propaganda campaign leading into the announcement. This reinforces the thought that this initiative has a much deeper undertone than simply helping a developing nation or providing humanitarian aid. What are the underlying undertones that can be learned from his speech in combination with this initiative? Let’s take a look.

The first thing that stood out was the fact that this speech mentioned global warming. This discussion referred to carbon emissions as a reason for the world’s climate change. Why are we discussing carbon emissions with other countries? The US is biggest reason for non-environmental carbon emission. While we have made strides in reducing our carbon footprint, we must look to the US first in improving this. It appears as the pot calling the kettle black when we go around and outwardly warn countries about vehicles and air conditioners and carbon emissions. This just seems like a point that could be discussed on a different platform and involve our progress as opposed to putting it off on a developing country. It seemed almost like this point was discussed in an attempt to be a preface for “clean energy” and go along with the initiative.

A second point that stood out was the praise that Obama expressed about former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mandela is widely recognized as the “founding father of the country’s modern democracy” (Wikipedia) .In Emergency Sex, we learn more about the effort that was provided from humanitarian aid organizations and the US in implementing a vote to overthrow the current government in Cambodia with the hopes of converting them to democracy. Could this visit and initiative have a political agenda? Recently, China has been seen making a presence in Africa. China is classified as communist state (“The World Factbook”). The initiative is neglecting the non-sub-Saharan countries, which are considered part of the Arab world (Wikipedia). These facts show that there does appear to be political reasons for this initiative and also discredits Obama’s praise of Mandela in his speech.

The third point that stood out was the discussion of Africa’s economy. Businesses in Africa already exist, are successful, and prosper on their current available power. The initiative looks to bolster this by doubling the access to power, but is this what Africa wants? A lot of the land in Africa consists of desert, rain forests, and plains. Many of the people that inhabit these areas are tribes and native people who would not benefit from this initiative. Is America pushing our ideology of what the world should be in the 21st century on other countries? It would appear as though we are pushing our modern traditions and ideals on people whose day to day lives differ than ours.

The last point that stood out was the fact that Obama stated that this was not an attempt to expand military reach and brought issue up of terrorism up. In the Eyes of Others, we learned about the problems that can arise when humanitarian aid workers are unable to be identified in aid situations. This initiative provides aid to Africa, in a different form, but because of the possible political reasons that exist, can lead to the misidentification of the African people as targets.

While this initiative outwardly appears as a feel good, look at America helping another developing country story, it does have its ulterior motives. The easiest motive to point out is the political one. The hope of finding an ally in the fight on terror can lead to the targeting of not only the Americans helping in this initiative, but can also put the people of Africa at risk. This initiative doesn’t address the real issue of if this is actually what Africa needs. This initiatives main purpose is to improve the future of the people of Africa. How much will they prosper from this future if they still do not have access to medicines or vaccines? Will there be a future if there are more pressing needs that $7 billion could be applied to, but are neglected to achieve an American goal?

It is understandable, logical, and rational to enter into any situation with ulterior motives. It is also naïve to think that everything in running the government is black and white. Someone not directly involved with the government, without knowledge of exact foreign policies, or the volatility of those relationships can easily be dismissed. However, the most basic of questions is ignored by this initiative, and in many aid efforts. Is this what these people need or is it what we want to them to have? Does this serve in their best interest or in ours?

Chris Dove
Elon University Student

Works Cited:

Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.

“Africa: Obama Promises U.S. $7 Billion Investment in Power Grids.” AllAfrica. AllAfrica, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Karimi, Faith, and Matt Smith. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. CNN, 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete (R) and US President Barack Obama met to discuss trade possibilities [AFP]. N.d. Photograph. AljazeeraWeb. 3 Jul 2013. <>.

The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Fact Sheet: Power Africa. The White House. N.p., 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

“The World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 12 May 2013. Web. 3 Jul 2013. <>.

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Open Letter to Barry O

Hey Barry,

Before I delve into my spiel on the humanitarian aid efforts of your administration and our country in general, I would like to point out something that you and I have in common. We are both Americans. So while you might be leader of the free world and a very powerful man, I am writing to you as one American to another.

Each year it seems that the United States looses ground to foreign countries in a variety of ways. Whether it be jobs, public esteem, or wars America is not the mighty nation of our grandfather’s days. Instead of trying desperately regain footing by passing bills through the traffic jam that is our Congress, or going on Goodwill trips to Africa, something radically different needs to be done in order to improve our relationship our global neighbors.

In Linda Polman’s book, War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, she points out how humanitarian aid can affect a population and its region if given improperly. While our country gives more aid than any, the way in which we do it doesn’t always work out the way we hoped. Examples of this include Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. So how do we solve this problem. Why is it that when ever we try to help somebody it backfires?

The problem lies in the American genetic code; our DNA. Since the Second World War, the United States has steadfastly believed that we are the answer to ills and conflicts around the world. In addition to that, with the current economic climate of our country, more effort should be focused on how to solve our problems before helping with other nations. I don’t see a future too bright where we cannot help support ourselves, let alone the other people of the globe.

In efforts like Power Africa, I do believe this will stimulate not only spending in our economy, but it will improve goodwill with African nations. Yet because of the  high corruption of the continent that you yourself speak of, how can we be sure our funding will not be stolen away by parasitic dictators and nations. In order for foreign projects that are Made in USA to succeed, we must be able to ensure that foreign corruption is not going to have its sticky little fingers on it.

As an American I will commend that your voice is different from your predecessors. You don’t puff out your chest and put your cowboy boots on the desk and dictate how the deal is going to go. You’re respectful, listening to all parties, then making a decision.

You have until January 20th, 2017 to make a positive impact on this world. There are many issues and conflicts that you will not be able to solve simply due to the number. But if you can make this country as well liked as it was 60 years ago and while maintaining a high standard of living, you have succeeded. You will have taken care of people outside our borders as well as within. You are my President, I support you 100%. But it is time for a change.




Works Cited

Kumar, Anita. “Bee Nation/World News.” The Sacramento Bee. N.p., 1 July 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
“Obama’s Africa Trip Will Cost Taxpayers $100 Mln – RT USA.” Obama’s Africa Trip Will Cost Taxpayers $100 Mln – RT USA. N.p., 25 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.


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Why We Should Care

Why do we as a nation feel the need to donate our time, money and resources to those thousands of miles away?  The vast majority of living Americans will never meet those receiving the aid or even get any sort of short-term benefit from these actions.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve read or heard “national debt is going to be a burden on future generations” or how Bush’s/Obama’s policies are ruining the future.  The reason developed nations support those in need is because it will produces long-term benefits for all parties involved.


The first question many will ask is: why should we care about what happens thousands of miles away when we have so many problems at home?  The world is changing.  Global economies, communication systems and technology have greatly reduced the impact of geographic separation.  Not only do we know what happens across the globe, we can also meaningfully impact those situations.  We, as human beings, have an innate desire to preserve human life.  There are laws in almost every nation that punish murder and actions that unfairly affect other peoples’ lives.  Today, with this ability to render aid all over the world, we can sow the means to preserve life all over the world.   President Carter once said, “if you’re totally illiterate and living on one dollar a day, the benefits of globalization never come to you.”  Imagine if you lived in a place that had no power, no medicine and no roads; the global community is rising and we can’t simply forget about those that aren’t yet involved.


Some will inevitably scoff at the notion that America, already almost $17 trillion dollars in debt, will benefit from trillion dollar aid initiatives.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Take “Power Aid,” an initiative to increase access to power to sub-Saharan Africa that the United States has pledged $7 billion dollars to support.  Finally, after so many failed humanitarian missions, the global community is focusing on long-term solutions.  The initial goal is to provide power, but this program will eventually enable better medicine, communication, protection and industry.  These nations will become self-sustaining.  America aiding this cause will provide goodwill and strengthen global ties.  America has, deserved or not, an imperialist reputation in many parts of the world.  Helping, through assistance not force, will enable America to sway many of its detractors and create a stronger global community.  Need something more tangible?  This $7 billion dollar investment will greatly help our economy.  Maybe not today, but in the future.  So many are upset as what they see as a bleak future for American youths, and this is a great way to turn that around.   The Power Africa fact sheet states “Power Africa will build on Africa’s enormous power potential, including new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas, and the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy.  It will help countries develop newly-discovered resources responsibly, build out power generation and transmission, and expand the reach of mini-grid and off-grid solutions” (Fact Sheet).  Lending a hand today could very well lead to shaking hands in partnership tomorrow.  Not only will Africa’s economy benefit the African people, it will also provide another trade partner.  Like Hillary Clinton said, “The growth of the developing world presents a major economic opportunity for American business today and a thousand opportunities tomorrow” (Porter).


We cannot, and should not, ignore those in need just because it is inconvenient or because they are thousands of miles away.  Ensuring peace requires that we help others in good faith. Want to help future generations? Then support initiatives like “Power Aid” that truly have the future in mind.


FACT SHEET: Power Africa. White House Office of the Press Secretary. June 30, 2012. Web. June 3 2013.

Jimmy Carter. 2002. Web. July 3, 2013.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times.  Viking Press. 2010. Print.

Porter, Charlene.  Foreign Aid Support US Economic Growth, Clinton Says. US Embassy. July 12, 2011. Web. July 3, 2013.

Lincoln, Blanche. Why US Foreign Aid Still Makes Sense. Politico. October 22, 2012. Web. July 3, 2013.

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The Importance of Critical Examination

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 6.22.32 PM

Recently, President Obama announced his new “Power Africa” initiative.  Its goal is to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, and to have universal access by 2030.  Obama said that the program is intended to “lift people out of poverty” and to “provide a light where currently there is darkness.”  I think that several aspects of this program are admirable, but there are some things that should be examined.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business.  It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs. And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”  (Obama, CNN).  Power Africa is a development aid program that will do more than provide emergency aid, such as food and water, to the continent.  Electricity will help African nations develop and be able to become more involved in the global economy.  Obama said, “…we are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance.” (Obama, Al Jazeera).  This type of development aid will help Africans in cities and villages and on farms and ranches to boost their economies.

Obama has called Power Africa a “partnership” between America and the continent of Africa.  A two-way street of trade and investment between different nations will help build the African and American economies, while establishing a relationship between the two.  I have said before that the aid industry needs to focus more on interacting with people in a way that “validates their dignity, validates a partnership relationship, not the traditional donor-beneficiary weirdness that can happen- instead, a relationship that can promote respect and hope and this optimism that together we can move forward.” (Jessica Jackley, TED Talk).  I think the Power Africa initiative is a way for this kind of relationship to begin to be built.  Promoting dignity and not charity is key.  When Obama was asked if the US had done enough to help Africa, he said, “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans.” (Obama, BBC).

American companies will partner with the existing power sector in Africa, building on the budding industry.  Developing clean energy sources will help create many new jobs, as well as continue combating global climate change.  This is especially important in African because the continent is suffering from deforestation rates that are twice that of the world average.  One new source of energy will involve a soccer ball that charges up a generator when played with.  “Obama will also see a new invention that places a generator unit inside a football, which can be taken home after a kick around to power up lamps or even mobile electronic devices.”  (Al Jazeera).

With all of these proposed benefits resulting from Power Africa, we must be careful not to be taken in by pretty speeches that seem to provide easy solutions to tough problems.  Poverty is a difficult problem with complex roots, and to say that it can be fixed with the implementation of electricity is naïve.  The Power Africa initiative is a respectable cause, but we must still be critical of it.

We must be careful that this does not become a “white elephant” project.  Linda Polman describes white elephants as “large, costly infrastructural development aid projects that are not economically viable. ‘We like building roads,’ a representative of the European Commission in West Africa [said] in 2006.  ‘That’s quick and easy.   You hire contractors, order up a shipment of asphalt and slice a road through the bush.  Looks good, especially is you paint some nice white lines on it, and you can write in your report that you’ve laid so many kilmetres of highway.  The fact that the country has nothing to drive on a road like that and therefore little use for it isn’t our problem.’” (Polman 196).  If the electricity that Power Africa is providing to Africa is the road, do the African people have the cars to drive on that road?  Do they actually have a need for power yet?  How many African people actually have computers or other objects that require electricity?  Will there be a system in place to educate the people on how to use technology?  Most of America has had access to the Internet for years now, yet many people still do not know how to utilize all of its benefits.  Electricity is not currently a large part of sub-Saharan African culture, so is introducing it this rapidly going to be helpful to the people?  These questions need to be asked, and their answers need to be examined before this project is implemented.

The Power Africa program seems like a simple solution to the root of many of Africa’s problems.  And if it were carried out to a tee, it would probably help many people.  However, I believe that there are too many cultural differences.  Sub-Saharan Africa is not set up to accept a technological revolution at this time.  It must be introduced slowly, rather than just dropping a few thousand miles of cables and helping open several hundred power stations.  The people must be taught how to use these new tools, or else it will be money wasted on projects that will not be used.  The good intentions of the Obama administration, as well as those of humanitarian organizations, must be cross-examined with realistic outcomes.

I think that the most important thing for us as responsible global citizens to do is to ask questions.  Make organizations and administrations responsible for their choices, as they affect millions of people.  Linda Polman urges us to “stop avoiding the questions and start discussing how to do better.”  (Polman 158).  “If we don’t ask these questions for our own benefit, then we should ask them for the sake of the people who’ll see our next crisis caravan move in.” (Polman 164).  Millions, if not billions, of people are affected by the choices of the few.  It is our responsibility to ask the questions that they cannot, to make sure that they are actually being helped and not duped.  The Dalai Lama said, “It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.”  I could not agree more.  We need to ask the questions that hold organizations accountable, to make sure that we are effectively helping others.  Discussions about Power Africa are only the beginning.  It is time to step up to our duty.


Works Cited


“Africa: Obama Promises U.S. $7 Billion Investment in Power Grids.” AllAfrica. AllAfrica, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

Doyle, Alister. “Africa’s Deforestation Twice World Rate, Says Atlas.” Reuters. Reuters, 10 June 2008. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.

Hall, Wynton. “Obama Unveils $7 Billion ‘Power Africa’ Electricity Plan.” Breitbart News Network. N.p., 30 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.

Karimi, Faith, and Matt Smith. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. CNN, 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

“Obama for New Model of Africa Development.” Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, 02 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

“Responsibility Quotes.” Do One Thing – Quotes for a Better World. The Emily Fund, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.

The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Fact Sheet: Power Africa. The White House. N.p., 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

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Final: If Only The Weakest Could Benefit

One of the intentions for this “Power Africa” is aiming at China’s rising influence in Africa. While the United States have been preoccupied with smaller issues and crisis in many different regions in the world, China has been building significant relationships with countries in Africa. In The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, John Mearsheimer analyzed and stated that If China’s per capita GNP is half of Japan’s; China’s overall GNP would then be roughly 2.5 times bigger than Americas. Also he added that China has the potential to be more powerful than the United States. In his offensive realistic point of view, China will be an aggressive state for achieving its regional hegemony (Mearsheimer). Considering China’s nature and circumstances, it is a rational move for Barack Obama’s investment in Africa. In the Eyes of Others emphasized that “Neutrality and impartiality…are essential ingredients of effective humanitarian action,” (In the Eyes of Others). Although the campaign’s hidden intentions are not fully neutral, the legitimacy and the promising outcomes will surpass the downsides and problems of typical humanitarian movements.  At this particular matter that takes place in a less serious crisis zones, “Power Africa” campaign will eventually benefit more people.

“Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans.” quoted by Barak Obama and he continued, “And our job is to be a partner in that process, and Tanzania’s been one of our best partners. We are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance.” Rather than claiming and promising to support Africa unconditionally, Obama used the term “Partner.” This is one of the most appealing ideas that I have heard lately: teaching them how to catch a fish, not just giving them a fish. Certainly the United States will have benefits by the “Power Africa” campaign including keeping China contained and acquiring more access to resources and the markets. In addition, Obama applauded China’s investment in Africa and quoted that he welcomes the attentions that Africa is receiving from China, Brazil, India, and Turkey (CNN). Obama welcomes the rivals. These countries also have intentions behind their investments and aids. At the end of the day, they all want something from Africa. This can be led to a competition, hopefully a good competition. In this particular matter, at least the aid will not go to the warlords or oppressors who use the money to kill more people. There will be a lot of corruption from local governmental officers and persons whom dealing with electricity power plants. At the atmosphere like this, I welcome a competition. If more African people can get benefits from the supports, and if more African people can bloom their potential fully by electricity, I truly think that the “Power Africa” campaign is worth it.

While Obama visited Tanzania few days ago, not everyone was excited about, especially for those who are struggling for their survival daily. “There are some people who will benefit from his visit but for us petty traders and ordinary residents, who struggle daily to make ends meet, we are the losers,” said Dennis Mwendwa, 31, a street vendor. “For some of us have been roughly treated and others ordered to move their business away (during Obama’s visit)” (USA Today). Naïvely yet sincerely speaking, I want this plan to be unconditionally helping another human being, but not considering Africa as a tool. If this “Power Africa” can make a struggling African street vendor’s life, I will be more than happy.

When I asked him, he told me that a bajaj(three-wheel taxi) driver makes about 10,000TSH($8) per day(before gas and vehicle rent). If only this driver could gain more economic power, "Power Africa" is a success.

When I asked him, he told me that a bajaj(three-wheel taxi) driver makes about 15,000TSH($9) per day(before gas and vehicle rent). If only this driver could gain support and more economic power through Obama’s new campaign, “Power Africa” is a success.


“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013.

Karimi, Faith. June 30, 2013. July 2, 2013. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa”

Mearsheimer, John. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. Print.

Mwanzi, Josephat. “Obama, Bush mark Tanzania U.S. Embassy bombing.” USA Today.  (July 2 2013): n. page. Web. 3 Jul. 2013. <>.

Linda Polman. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

Office of the Press Secretary. July 3, 2013.

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“Access to Electricity is Fundamental to Opportunity this Day in Age”


President Obama’s recent “Power Africa” initiative is an effort to double access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa (Fact Sheet…). With more than 2/3 of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa living without electricity, “Power Africa” promises new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas, and the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy, just to name a few things (Fact Sheet…). The United States has proposed to give $7 billion over the next five years to this effort with the hopes of making an impact on the continent of Africa (Fact Sheet…). According to President Obama, “access to electricity is fundamental…it’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business…it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy (Karimi & Smith).”


I certainly don’t disagree with these statements but I’m wondering how much emotion was put into this speech when these words were delivered? Is the reason for the United States huge monetary contribution to Africa because we want to provide light for these children and help Africa become more connected with the world on a global economy spectrum? Or are there other motives behind the U.S. response to the current situation in Africa? According to a report by CNN, China gave billions of dollars replacing the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner (Karimi & Smith). Shortly after this was made known, the U.S. decided to contribute a large sum of money. It almost seems to me that the U.S. is trying to compete with China, because they are no longer Africa’s largest trading partner. Is this decision to help another continent coming out of the goodness of America’s heart and its desire to actually help? Or is the U.S. trying to be seen in a better light by other countries? In my opinion, it would appear as though the U.S. is not wanting to help as much as it is wanting to regain its power as one of the leading providers of humanitarian aid and trade with Africa.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, one million Chinese workers have moved to Africa doing jobs such as working in the telecommunications and mining industries (Essa). It is also mentioned that these Chinese workers are doing jobs that could be filled by every day Africans who don’t have jobs (Essa). China’s intentions to “help,” or so it seems that’s what they were trying to do, has almost backfired on them. With the hopes of creating a positive image of their country in the eyes of Africans has quite possibly created somewhat of a negative image at the time these workers moved to Africa. Putting many Africans out of jobs doesn’t really seem like the “humanitarian” thing to do, but since they have extended their aid in regard to “Power Africa,” I think they have once again shown a positive light on China. The article also mentions that Chinese efforts may be the best chance of kickstarting Africa’s future (Essa). Down the line if this prediction comes true, China will be the ones who appear victorious to the rest of the world because they gave Africa the boost that they need. If this ends up being the case, will anyone care about Africa or continue to help? Or will China receive all the attention for being the ones who “helped” while Africa is put on the back burner? Is Africa even benefitting from all of this? It seems that more of the emphasis is put on America and China and that no one is caring as much as they say they do about Africa.

In a book that I have read titled In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid, the author mentions that “in Kenya and Uganda, nearly all the people questioned associated humanitarian aid with charity, and, consequently, a sort of divine intervention (Abu-Sada, 40).” According to this, people in these countries are associating the work of American humanitarian associations as being a positive thing for their country. They feel as though the motives behind our sending aid is because we want to help. If this were not the case with the “Power Africa” initiative then it would be a shame that other countries have had this perception, just to find out it isn’t true.

Another concern I have is the extremely large sum of money being sent over the next couple of years to Africa. Through my reading of another book titled War Games, I have learned that money sent to victims in need of humanitarian aid oftentimes does not reach the people in need. This money is intercepted in transit and therefore not actually helping anyone who needs it. How can you ensure that the $7 billion will go towards the “Power Africa” initiative and it will all be spent to help these efforts? $7 billion is a lot of money to keep track of and make sure it ends up in all the right places. I think Americans deserve to be promised that it will all go towards this effort, when this money could be used to help people in our own country.


I know I have asked a lot of questions but it is because I am concerned about the true motivation behind the U.S. offering up all this money. I would like to know the answers to my questions because I think these answers would benefit everyone in our country if they knew the truth about “Power Africa.” In an article by BBC News, when President Obama was posed with a question about whether the U.S. had done enough to help the continent (Africa), he responded, “ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans (Obama backs ‘new model…’).” How can this happen if other countries keep intervening and not allowing Africa to do anything on its own? Ultimately what I think it should come down to is the motive behind wanting to help. If a country’s true intentions are to make them look better than “help” is not what they are doing. Actually caring about the well being of the people in another country, then providing aid as such would be helping.


“FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.
Karimi, Faith, and Laura Bernardini Contributed to This Report. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.
Essa, Azad. “Measuring China’s Motivations in Africa.” – Features. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.
“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <>.
Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.
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Who Does “Power Africa” Really Empower?

The Obama administration has recently announced a 7 billion dollar endeavor to “double access to power in Africa.” President Obama has said that the “Power Africa” movement is necessary because, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.” (Karimi) At a time when the U.S. economy is still struggling however, is there an underlying ulterior motive to promoting such massive investment and involvement in Africa?

President Obama recently visited South Africa, where he announced his new initiative to spread electricity throughout Africa. But are U.S. intentions purely out of humanitarian goodwill or are there other factors at play?

President Obama recently visited South Africa, where he announced his new initiative to spread electricity throughout Africa. But are U.S. intentions purely out of humanitarian goodwill or are there other factors at play?

This sudden U.S. interest in Africa comes just as China has begun to exponentially increase its presence in the country, now replacing the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading power. (Karimi) These recent decisions to become involved more deeply in Africa clearly do not stem from humanitarian goodwill, but are instead two countries’ thinly veiled attempts to mask their fierce competition to establish control over the oil reserves of the continent.

U.S. domestic oil production peaked in 1970, and has steadily decreased ever since, being unable to meet the demands of the population, forcing the country to place a greater emphasis on oil importation. This has created a massive change in an otherwise laissez-faire U.S. foreign policy approach for example, in the oil-rich Middle East (only becoming involved when U.S. interests are threatened – such as supplying weapons to fend off Russian forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s), seen most prominently through the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, in order to establish a military presence that would open the flow of oil into America.

Paul O’Neill, Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush said in 2004 “Already by February 2001, the talk was mostly about logistics. Not the why [to invade Iraq], but the how and how quickly.” (Juhasz)

The plan worked because, as Antonia Juhasz of CNN reported in a 2013 article, “Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.” (Juhasz)

However, opposition to the conflict is currently at its highest since the start of the decade-long conflict that left an estimated 1.2 million people dead as a result of what Teju Cole describes as, “a war of choice”, with 56 percent of Americans saying they oppose the military efforts in Iraq according to a 2013 CNN poll.  (CNN/ORC)

With troop withdrawals estimated to bring the last American soldier home from Iraq and Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. must find a new area of alleged humanitarian interest to exploit, and it is clear they have found the perfect candidate in Africa.

China is also in desperate need of oil, requiring more of it every day in order to keep up with the massive economic boom it has seen in recent years.

On a trip I took this past January to China, our bus driver in Beijing relayed a joke he had heard a Peking University economics professor use to describe the huge increase in infrastructure projects and emerging middle class across the country, he said that China’s national bird “is the construction crane.” Looking at the skyline obscured almost entirely by these tall metal structures, it is easy to understand why a city like Beijing, with a population of twenty million and counting, would need a great deal of oil to sustain that level of growth.

This inability to keep up with their massive economic expansion, coupled with the U.S. claim on Iraq as an oil producer, has forced China to look to other countries as the solution to their energy shortage – namely, Africa.

Pan Rui, an international relations expert at Fudan University in Shanghai, says that, “Iraq changed the (Chinese) government’s thinking. The Middle East is China’s largest source of oil. America is now pursuing a grand strategy, the pursuit of American hegemony in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is the number one oil producer, and Iraq is number two [in terms of reserves]. Now, the United States has direct influence in both countries.” (Goodman)

The "Power Africa" movement hopes to spread electricity throughout the continent, but it comes at the same time that China has begun to establish itself in the region. Could political interests be at the forefront of this campaign rather than the best interests of Africa?

The “Power Africa” movement hopes to spread electricity throughout the continent, but it comes at the same time that China has begun to establish itself in the region. Could political interests be at the forefront of this campaign rather than the best interests of Africa?

It is clear that control of oil, as well as a mutual fear that the other superpower will dominate an area of influence as lucrative as Africa, have prompted this increase in humanitarian effort and foreign investment.

The “Power Africa” campaign treads in dangerous territory. Specifically because of the way it intends to supersede community involvement, and simply institute the creation of a viable energy industry on its own.  The White House fact sheet for the “Power Africa” movement says that, “Instead of taking years or even decades to create an enabling environment for energy sector investment, Power Africa takes a transaction-centered approach that provides incentives to host governments, the private sector, and donors.” (Office of the Press Secretary)

If “Power Africa” truly wanted to keep Africa’s best interests in mind, it would work with the community to help a self-sufficient system, rather than establishing one that is solely dependent on foreign aid, keeping all of the power with the donors themselves.

I ask of both the U.S. and Chinese government, why are you only now so deeply interested and concerned for Africa’s well being? Would you still care about expanding electricity throughout Africa if it were not such a politically powerful and hotly contested area? Where were these billion dollar efforts when the Rwandan genocide was killing 800,000 people, but intervention and saving lives served no tangible U.S. interests?

We would do well to remember one of the four fundamental principles of the International Committee of the Red Cross, that they hold essential to an ethical and responsible humanitarian effort, that principle is described as “Independence” or, “Being free from benefactors.” (Polman) The U.S. is very clearly a benefactor from the “Power Africa” movement, but it has yet to be seen whether Africa will benefit or suffer as a result of such heavy-handed foreign involvement.

I urge our government to take a more cooperative approach that focuses on empowering Africa to power itself, rather than promoting our own self-serving interests, under the guise of a humanitarian effort.


Works Cited:

Office of the Press Secretary. July 2, 2013.

Juhasz, Antonia. “Why the War in Iraq was Fought for Big Oil” April 15, 2013. July 2, 2013.

CNN/ORC. “In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?”

Goodman, Peter. July 13, 2005. July 2, 2013. “Big Shift in China’s Oil Policy”

Karimi, Faith. June 30, 2013. July 2, 2013. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa”

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. March 2012. June 13, 2013.

Linda Polman. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.



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A light where currently there is darkness: a clearer look at Obama’s intentions with the Power Africa movement


Obama was quoted saying this about the United States’ new initiative Power Africa, which seeks to bring electricity to Africa: “…a light where currently there is darkness; the energy to lift people out of poverty–that’s what opportunity looks like” (“Obama Promises…”). Obama has often been said to charismatic, and also has been criticized for using his skill to manipulate people into thinking what he intends is good. I believe that this holds true to the Power Africa initiative. Essentially the US plans to give 7 billion dollars to give electricity to the people of Africa, which from a distance, sounds all well and good. But if we really think about the situation, does Africa actually need electricity? Cities and businesses already thrive there. Obama claims that it will get rid of poverty and create jobs, but how exactly?

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by…” (“Obama Promises…”). According to well-known history, thousands of people studied by candle-light before the invention of electricity. Although I understand that electricity may be centered around in Western society, it is not right to assimilate African culture when they are content without the extensive use of electricity. As far as I am aware, no one asked what the African people wanted before throwing money at an unknown affliction. In the Eyes of Others focuses on what locals present in humanitarian aid areas wanted and saw and I think this idea of discovering what locals want is essential in any movement that claims to be humanitarian-based.

The African American descent president once excited global citizens into thinking that his interests would lie in Africa, but many were disappointed in his lack of attention until now. Some say he was sidetracked by focusing on the recession during his first term, but I argue that this new focus on Africa is not because of his personal background, but because of America seeking out new places to import oil from (Samatar).

The War on Terror has often been argued to have been initiated because of the United States’ interest in oil in that area. Because the area is becoming increasingly dangerous for the United States, others have moved into the area: “The withdrawal of US and Western oil companies from regions of unrest and conflict in Middle Eastern countries such as Sudan, Iraq and Libya pave the way for the entry of Chinese oil companies in these countries” (Shih). This is only the first evidence of oil competition between China and the United States, and this is not only occurring in the Middle East. US Senator James Talent says: “China is expanding its economic, diplomatic, political, and security presence in the Middle East…That engagement is of particular importance to the US, given our country’s interests and investments in that part of the world” (Shih). The same now is occurring in Africa.

“…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.'” (Karimi and Bernardini). Why would Obama even find it necessary to say he is not threatened by China’s investments in Africa? Clearly the situation is more like a competition between China and the United States for oil, because if the basis for Power Africa was humanitarian, the countries would seek to work together or applaud efforts. Another article shows the increase of China’s presence in Africa: “Although the US still gets a significant amount of its oil imports from Africa, China has gained a substantial foothold with new oil producers such as Ghana, Uganda and Sudan, and has made some headway with older ones” (Samatar).

The War on Terror has affected Africa more than the United States’ drive to seek more oil, but also through misplaced agenda. According to Samatar: “The Somali case is the clearest manifestation of such a misplaced agenda. Indigent people who were terrorised by warlords for nearly two decades decided to fight back and regain their dignity using their faith, Islam, as the principal mobilising tool. Once this became known, Western media and the terror bosses, and their regional allies, like Ethiopia, interpreted this movement as a terrorist menace” (Samatar). Misinterpretations of the Western media have happened like this before, which really end up severely hurting the victims and prolong war.

For instance, in War Games Polman discusses the situation in Biafra, where in 1967 Ojukwu, the governor, proclaimed Biafra an independent republic (it also happens to be one of Nigeria’s most oil-rich provinces) (Polman 106). The Nigerian government reacted by imposing a blockade of Biafra, which made it impossible to deliver food supplies which caused hunger (Polman 106). “In June 1968 he [Ojukwu] called in the Genevan PR company Markpress to mobilize world opinion in his favour with photographs and television images of starving children” (Polman 107). Ojukwu insisted this was a genocide against the Ibo people by the Nigerian government although up to 7 million were not within the blockade, but aid came anyway without knowing the full situation (Polman 107). Aid organizations were even forced by Ojukwu to pay for space to put their food and medicine supplies (which were mostly consumed by Ojukwu’s soldiers) and weapons were accumulated for Ojukwu’s army (Polman 107). The media has misconstrued our ideas on where crisises lie, and the United States has remained blind to the fact that they are causing more harm than good with their self-interested aid efforts.

If we truly want to make a difference without our own self-interest involved, we must keep what In the Eyes of Others has taught us from MSF’s study on its impacts and misconceptions: “Neutrality and impartiality, the studies show, are not theoretical concepts or pie-in-the-sky constructs; they are essential ingredients of effective humanitarian action” (“In the Eyes of Others…”). In other words, in order to truly make the world a better place, we need to refrain from looking for what benefits we can draw out of a situation, but instead make a true good impact on an area by doing what the locals say they need.


Works Cited:

“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

Karimi, Faith, and Laura Bernardini. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. Cable News Network, 30 June 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <>.

“Obama Promises U.S. $7 Billion Investment in Power Grids.” All Africa. N.p., 1 July 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <>.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

Samatar, Abdi Ismail. “Obama’s Africa Rhetoric: Beware!” Aljazerra. N.p., 27 June 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <>.

Shih, Toh Han. “Beijing ‘to Increase Reliance on Middle East Oil'” South China Morning Post. N.p., 10 June 2013. Web. 01 July 2013. <>.

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