President Obama’s recent visit to these shores will probably be best remembered for his trenchant, and in the eyes of some, unwelcome, observations on the upcoming EU Referendum.
Unfortunately, the brouhaha overshadowed an opportunity to assess the President’s legacy as he enters the home straight of his term of office, on what, unforeseen global emergencies aside, is likely to have been his last UK visit via Air Force One.
So where do we start? Obamacare? Rescuing the US, and by extension the global economy with good old-fashioned government cash injections, to offset the fallout from the financial crisis? Leading the climate change agenda? Ending less-than-wholly successful full-scale combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan? Reaching out to Cuba? Reforming a biased domestic criminal justice system?
The Electrify Africa Act won’t make most Western playlists. But in terms of its projected long-term impact the legislation definitely deserves a slot. If there is one factor that is absolutely vital to propelling economic, educational and healthcare progress on the continent, while also cutting into poverty rates, it is access to power. The World Bank recently estimated that, excluding South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa produces about the same amount of electricity as Argentina, which has around 5% of its population.
But the Act, which aims to add over 60m households to the electricity grid by 2020, is about much more than simple American altruism. Much of the infrastructural development across Sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade has been driven by Chinese funding. But continental frustration is building with what the archetypal Chinese stance which almost always insists that the business goes to Chinese companies using preponderantly Chinese workers.
Meanwhile, Obama’s act explicitly supports US companies that partner with, and invest in, local firms and workers as a means of cementing long-run skill development while matching local needs.
Sounds like a sure-fire hit.
TNT Global Matters