President, Barack Obama is in Africa for the second time since becoming President of the United States of America and he is pledging funds to help the continent. This time, he is pledging $7 billion to deal with the energy crisis in sub-Sahara Africa.
“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,” a statement from the White House has said.
Sub-Saharan Africa will need more than $300 billion to achieve universal electricity access by 2030, the statement added.
This was how the CNN captured the pledge in its reportage: “US 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, it said.
Most countries in sub-Sahara Africa have huge power deficits leading to constant power outages. These outages are affecting lifestyles and industries. Businesses are losing millions of dollars in revenue and investments as a result.
President Obama is no doubt a charismatic leader. He seems passionate about making a positive impact on the world, but is he getting as much as he wants done? Would this new $7 billion pledge materialize?
These questions are necessary because when Obama first came to Ghana in 2009, he made a financial pledge to fix Africa’s broken health care sector, with particular emphasis on public health. He made a pledge of a whopping $63 billion.
Making his policy speech on Africa in Ghana’s Parliament in Accra Saturday July 11, 2009, he said even though enormous progress has been made on the continent in health care and many more people with HIV/AIDS still live productive lives and are getting the drugs they need, “too many still die from diseases that shouldn’t kill them, when children are being killed because of mosquito bites and mothers are dying in child birth, then we know that more progress must be made.”
If that pledge has been fulfilled, it would be worthwhile to know how much of that has been disbursed. It would also be useful to examine what benchmarks were set to attain the goals for which the amount was pledged and if it was ever given, to look out for what has been achieved so far after nearly three years.
It is one thing to pledge, and it is another thing to deliver on the pledge. Before another celebration is organized for this new initiative, looking at the very critical situation of Africa’s energy challenges, and in the light of the truth, there should be compelling reasons to seek to know what happened with the $63 billion pledge to support the health care sector in Africa.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi