Power Africa

President Obama recently visited the University of Cape Town in South Africa to talk about his new initiative in Africa that doubles the amount of power provided to the citizens of Sub-Saharan Africa, a part of Africa where electricity is extremely scarce. Often times governments will boast about the large chunks of money they give to third-world countries without much direction as to where the money is specifically going to. “Power Africa” is different from other development programs in the past in that it works to improve a certain aspect of life for the citizens. Obama is looking to work with the people of Africa rather than above them to help provide better assistance that will last more in the long run.

The use of electricity and the mass distribution of power was one of humanity’s turning points in history. Electricity allows humans to increase efficiency in a variety of different ways and is taken advantage of in today’s first-world society. “Modern energy sources provide people with […] services that are essential for reducing poverty, improving health and education, and increasing incomes” (Worldwatch Institute). Providing those less fortunate with electricity will improve their lives drastically and provide one huge step in leveling the global playing field with those who often take electricity for granted.

A great aspect of Power Africa is that organizations are looking to work with citizens in Africa to further their development. In his speech Obama says, “we are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance” (Aljazeera). In “War Games”, Linda Polman stressed many of the pitfalls of providing humanitarian aid supplies throughout third world countries. Many of the resources end up not reaching those who really need it. The spread of electrical power is a neutral source of development aid that will be able to help everyone much more equally than charity that aims to directly increase wealth.

Power Africa works to increase the overall standard of living for people throughout Africa to help bring them into a more relevant spot in the world. This means that Obama’s initiative isn’t completely selfless, it’s also meant to benefit America as well as other countries tied to Africa. Obama clearly states that “[electricity is] the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of this global economy” (Karimi & Smith). For this reason, it isn’t completely a humanitarian aid project, and shouldn’t be viewed as such. Humanitarian aid, from a Dunantist view implies independence and impartiality, neither of which America is conveying with Power Africa. From a functionalist’s point of view, the initiative is a global partnership intended to further development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of its positive functions achieve similar goals to those made by initiatives centered on humanitarian aid. Because it isn’t completely humanitarian isn’t a bad thing though, it still helps to alleviate human suffering in ways other than what it accomplishes directly.

Energy poverty is a huge problem in today’s world, having a stable source of electricity is crucial to staying out of poverty. In his speech, Obama said that he wanted to move away from more traditional forms of international development, partnering with Africa instead of aiding them. “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans” (BBC, Obama), and Power Africa does just that. By funding this new initiative, America help level the global playing field by providing power to those in need. It also helps to benefit the surrounding world by bringing Africa into a more important and beneficial part of the global economy.


Aljazeera. “Obama for New Model of Africa Development.” Aljazeera. 2 July 2013. Web.

BBC. “Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 1 July 2013. Web.

Karimi, Faith, and Laura Bernardini Contributed to This Report. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. Cable News Network, 30 June 2013. Web.

Office of the Press Secretary. “FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. 30 June 2013. Web.

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

Worldwatch Institute. “Electricity Access Still Insufficient in Developing Countries | Common Dreams.” Common Dreams. 2 Feb. 2012. Web.



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