Infotmation and stories on Obama administration

Obama and Power AfricaOn July 1st, at the end of his tour of Africa, President Obama visited Tanzania. Only a day removed from unveiling his ‘Power Africa’ initiative in Cape Town, Obama visited the Norwegian-built Ubungo power station, an example of the style of public-private investment that America is promoting throughout Africa.

The Power Africa initiative has a goal of adding more than 10,000MW of cleaner, more efficient energy in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. The initiative will provide electrical access to a further 20 million households. Currently, as many as two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to power, thus the project will serve as an important step in kick-starting local economies by powering businesses and encouraging investors.

Six countries have been designated for the initial stages of the venture – Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. These countries will be aided by a mix of public and private funding. The U.S. is pledging $7 billion in public funding which, combined with the $9 billion of private money,  will be fronted for the start of the project. General Electric alone has committed to bringing 5,000MW of power to Ghana and Tanzania.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya combined makeup nearly half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, and Ghana, Tanzania, and Liberia stand as examples of stable democratic governments on the continent.

After his tour of Ubungo, Obama said, ‘This is a win-win. It’s a win for Africans — families get to electrify their homes; businesses can run their plants; investors can say if we locate in an African country that they’re going to be able to power up in a reliable way. All of this will make economies grow. It’s a win for the United States because the investments made here, including in cleaner energy, means more exports for the U.S. and more jobs in the U.S.”

– David Wilson

Sources: The Economist, The Hill, Council on Foreign Relations
Photo: Flickr

Obama Electrify Africa
According to the International Energy Agency, all developing nations lack adequate access to electricity. This amounts to 1.3 billion people living in the dark worldwide. According to the same source, an investment of $1 trillion USD would be needed to remedy this. Currently, poverty and hunger take center stage. Food is of more use to a starving child than is a night light, but Westerners often take for granted how valuable the power of light can be to a community in poverty.

Not only does electricity make lives easier on a personal level, it helps to mechanize farming operations, which can be a great boost to a company’s agricultural productivity. Natural disasters often become less deadly when people are warned about them ahead of time, which can be accomplished with electric monitoring systems. Socially, populations are less marginalized with improved means of communication and information.

President Barack Obama said during his recent trip to South Africa, “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.” President Obama then pledged almost $7 billion USD to help provide electricity for Africa.

The White House stated that The Export-Import Bank will carry most of the financial weight of the program, donating $5 billion, and the U.S. Oversees Private Investment Corporation will provide another $1.5 billion.

The funds will go toward preventing the frequent blackouts that plague the Sub-Saharan part of the continent, as well as helping the 85% percent of people in the region without electricity gain access to it. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique will be the first countries to benefit from the program as it is developed at preliminary stages.

The investment is a great step toward solving the problem, but in all, Africa alone will need $300 billion to achieve universal electricity by 2030. The Alliance for Rural Electrification, a non-government organization, is another ally in combating this issue. As champions of universal electrification, ARE focuses on renewable energy such as solar, which much of Africa is a strong candidate for. This is especially relevant for areas that are geographically isolated where extending the reach of an existing power grid is not feasible.

– Samantha Mauney

Source: ARE, Scientific American, CNN
Photo: Business Insider

Michelle_Obama_africa_instagram_pictures
Exciting news in the social media world: now, when Instagram fans scroll through their picture feeds they just may see a post from First Lady Michelle Obama.

Social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are powerful tools of the modern technology age that can help people stay in touch, form connections, and share news with the world. Michelle Obama has become Instagram’s latest celebrity member, posting for the first time from Senegal on June 27th.

Her first Instagram post was a picture of her with a group of women in Senegal with the caption, “My first instagram! So inspired and so impressed by these extraordinary young women. -mo #FLOTUSinAfrica.” Since that first post, the First Lady has posted 14 photos and gained nearly 300,000 followers.

By joining a social media site that is popular amongst all ages, Michelle Obama has shown both an acceptance of the technology age and recognition of social media as a powerful advocacy tool. Non-profit organizations and influential businesses are increasingly using websites like Instagram to spread the word about their cause and garner support.

Using Instagram to spread the news of the Obamas’ trip to Africa provides the world with a different view of the family’s noteworthy trip, and a more personal story that is not told on popular news channels.

Moreover, Michelle Obama has taken to signing her posts with an intimate “-mo” that makes the Instagram account seem more like a personal blog than a professional tool. Mrs. Obama’s account gives political photos a unique angle that reminds the world that, at their core, the Obamas are just a family.

Check out Michelle Obama’s Instagram account to keep updated on the family’s travels, get a refreshing break from the 24 hour news cycle’s repetitive reporting, or to feel a little more important knowing that you are somehow connected to Michelle Obama, even if only by a social media site.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: AAUW, CNN, Instagram
Photo: CNN

ObamaSlaves_opt

Four centuries after the first African slaves were shipped from Africa to the Americas, Barack Obama, the first African American U.S. President, visited one of the major slave shipping points of the triangular trade: Goree Island.

Obama started off his week-long trip through Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania with a private tour of the Goree Island Slave House. Built in 1776 by the Dutch on Goree Island off the Senegal coast, it is contested whether the ‘House of Slaves’ (Maison des Esclaves) was really a major slave-trading point; some historians suggest that the island was more of a merchant port, and the slave house a merchant’s home. However, despite the controversy over its effective role in the slave trade, there is no doubt that slaves walked through the “door of no return,” never to come back.

Now turned into a museum and classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the House of Slaves reminds all its visitors of the brutality and cruelty inflicted upon other human beings during the slave trade.

“It’s a very powerful moment… to be able to come here and to fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade, to get a sense in a very intimate way of the incredible inhumanity and hardship that people faced”, stated Obama, who is believed to have at least one enslaved ancestor. First Lady Michelle Obama, a descendant of slaves, did not wish to comment on their visit to the House of Slaves.

More than just diplomatic, Obama’s visit to the Slave House is highly significant for many, both African and American. It is an acknowledgment of the dark history of slavery of the United States, a reminder of the considerable transformation that American society has undergone in the past decades.

The desegregation of American society and the election of the first African American  President in the history of the U.S. has made Africans very supportive and proud, although there is some disappointment that the President seems less involved with the continent than his predecessors Georges W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Moved by the living testimony of the slave trade evoked by the Goree Island Slave House, Obama emphasized the importance of the defense of human rights and praised the U.S. Supreme Court for the same-sex marriage ruling. He was accompanied by Senegalese President Macky Sall, who paradoxically declared that Senegal was “still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality”.

Obama’s visit to Goree Island and then to South Africa raises the question of the place of aid to Africa in American foreign policy priorities. That question has yet to be answered.

Lauren Yeh

Source: Yahoo! News, PolicyMicLA Times
Photo: Washington Post