Power Africa Initiative
President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative is looking to solve a monster problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where two out of three people lack access to electricity. Power Africa suggests “ambitious but achievable” goals, including the creation of 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 megawatts of new and cleaner power.

According to President Barack Obama, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity.” With Power Africa, the U.S. is investing in Africa’s potential. Obama has brought together private and public organizations, political leaders and power generation experts with the goal of improving peoples’ quality of life and stimulating economic growth.

USAID’s goal with the Power Africa Initiative has been “to remove barriers that impede sustainable development.” A recent article in Bloomberg, however, claims that after three years, those barriers are still in place.

Writers Toluse Olorunnipa and Tope Alake cite evidence that Power Africa “has fallen well short of its goals, so far producing less than 5 percent of the new power generation it promised.” They highlight political dysfunction, policy bundling and economic hurdles as major obstacles to progress.

USAID, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, is aiming to implement policy and regulatory reforms, and the Department of Energy has partnered with the Clean Energy Solutions Center in the Power Africa Initiative to “help governments design and adopt policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies.”

With over 120 public and private partners, the Power Africa Initiative has the potential to make an enormous impact in the African continent, despite the bleak progress reported.

In September 2016, President Obama argued that progress is being made, citing successes involving “solar power and natural gas in Nigeria; off-grid energy in Tanzania; people in rural Rwanda gaining electricity.”

Obama went on to say that the global community must continue to invest in Africa’s youth in order to build upon the progress that has already been made. It may be that maximizing investment in Africa’s young people will “spur Africa’s energy revolution.”

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to assume office, his choice of cabinet members is demonstrating a philosophical shift in foreign policy. It is uncertain at this point whether the incoming U.S. administration will continue to support international development projects such as Power Africa.

As long as funding continues, however, the initiative will continue to make an impact.

Tim Devine

Photo: Flickr

Although it was not his first trip to Kenya, Barack Obama’s visit was the first-ever by a sitting U.S. president. From freestyling on the dancefloor to speaking on serious political and social issues, Obama’s trip was certainly a highlight for the nation, which considers him a long-lost son. Emphasizing his place in history as the first African-American president, Obama went one step further, declaring himself to the masses as a “Kenyan-American” president who takes pride in his ancestral heritage.

The visit was very different from the one he made as a young man, however. This time, Obama was surrounded by the security bubble that comes with the office of Presidency, so Kenyans that clamored to be close to him were kept at a distance. Despite his personal ties to the nation, the trip retained a practical and professional air.

Nevertheless, Obama’s family connections to the nation proved useful in adding sincerity and poignancy to the political messages that he delivered to large, receptive Kenyan crowds. The stories of his father and grandfather, Obama noted, “show the enormous barriers to progress that so many Kenyans faced just one or two generations ago.”

The President went on to declare that “Kenya is at a crossroads” and that it needs to confront “the dark corners” of corruption, ethnic division and violence that exist within its borders and move toward expanding democracy.

Obama condemned practices of bribery, suggesting that the Kenyan economy could be improved if money from bribes were instead put towards paying people for an “honest day’s work”.

He additionally attacked the treatment of women in Kenya, remarking that treating women as second-class citizens were holding the country back from meeting its true potential.

In direct contrast to comments made by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, calling gay rights a “nonissue” in the country, Obama criticized the Kenyan government for making homosexuality punishable by several years in prison and urged the country to make progress in the area of gay rights.

The condemnations voiced by President Obama are not new criticisms for the nation riddled with controversy. But, perhaps, hearing them from a leader who is so deeply connected to Kenyan culture will help in swaying the country to strive for change.

Katie Pickle

Sources: CNN, New York Times
Photo: Flickr

Bureau of International Organization Affairs
In order to make significant dents in global poverty, countries, no matter their annual GDPs, must collaborate. Poverty-stricken and privileged nations alike must work together. International and unifying organizations, such as the United Nations, make this kind of collaboration possible, along with departments of state enabling progressive conversation. The Bureau of International Organization Affairs, headed by the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, incumbent Esther Brimmer, speaks for the United States on critical stages, at the United Nations and other international organizations. It is a powerful tool for banishing poverty; something you should know a thing (or two) about.

1. The Basics

The Bureau of International Organization Affairs is a division of the United States Department of State and speaks on behalf of the U.S. while working with international agencies and organizations. This means that it is the Bureau’s duty to promote the President’s vision regarding international collaboration. President Obama’s vision centers around something called “robust multilateral engagement.” The Bureau’s process is considered multilateral because it regards a wide range of global issues, including peace and security, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, economic development, climate change and global health. As these issues develop and change, so do the Bureau’s policies and implementation tactics.

2. Recent Projects

The Bureau recently spearheaded an attack against the inequality keeping 62 million girls out of school in what is called the Let Girls Learn project. This new push will be led by USAID and, according to its own description, will “provide the public with meaningful ways to help all girls to get a quality education.” USAID additionally announced over $230 million for global education initiatives. Education droughts are severe roadblocks on the path of poverty reduction, and are exacerbated by the sexual bias targeted by Let Girls Learn. In the words of Barrack Obama, “The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women.” The Bureau of International Organization Affairs acknowledges this and is acting to relieve harsh, sexist conditions.

Other recent projects include the commemoration of World Refugee Day, observed on June 20, and the designation of a new World Heritage Site, Poverty Point, La., on June 22. The Bureau’s scope is large, both local and global, but with an emphasis on communication and internationality.

3. They are Accessible

Because of social media and the Internet, vast amounts information are accessible, and organizations who utilize social media’s power reap the benefits. Anyone can follow the U.S. Bureau of International Organization Affairs on Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, RSS and mail subscription. Tweets offer honest (albeit political) advice, informative links and interesting statistics. The Bureau makes an effort to communicate not only with diplomats and foreign political leaders, but also with the general public, giving the not-necessarily-political an opportunity to get to know their country’s global actions. This is important, especially when those actions combat global poverty or send neglected women to school.

– Adam Kaminski

Sources: Bureau of International Organization Affairs., USAID, U.S. Delegation Official Website for World Urban Forum
Photo: Education News