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

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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).”

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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.

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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.

References:

“FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/30/fact-sheet-power-africa>.
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. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/world/africa/south-africa-obama-pledge/>.
Essa, Azad. “Measuring China’s Motivations in Africa.” – Features. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/07/20137110258606419.html>.
“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23133214>.
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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