US President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Cape Town on June 30, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Michelly Rall/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Cape Town on June 30, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Michelly Rall/Getty Images)

(CNN) — U.S. 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. Obama made the announcement during his trip to South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy.

“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,” he said.

Two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, including more than 85% of those living in rural areas, the White House said.

“A light where currently there is darkness — the energy to lift people out of poverty — that’s what opportunity looks like,” Obama told students at Cape Town University. “So this is America’s vision: a partnership with Africa for growth, and the potential for every citizen, not just a few at the top.”

The program includes $1.5 billion from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and $5 billion from the Export-Import Bank, the White House said. Sub-Saharan Africa will need more than $300 billion to achieve universal electricity access by 2030, it said.

The preliminary setup will include Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique. Read more

Share