Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development must be ecstatic with joy. After opining that Obama should make electricity his “signature development achievement” in Africa, Obama has announced a Power Africa Initiative that does just that during his recent Africa trip.
Power Africa focuses on 5 Anglophone African countries and Ethiopia. Amazingly, the group includes Liberia, where the US Ambassador went on record less than a year ago as stating that electricity was ‘not a priority’ for her Embassy. After emphasizing US values and human development, does this marked shift to infrastructure development reflect the stunning success of Moss’ op-ed or is it a concerted effort to enrich US companies and counter Chinese influence on the continent?
Several major Africanist media outlets, including African Arguments and Africa is a Country have cautionary pieces on Obama’s announcement (‘With President Obama’s new initiative, this [energy provision] can increase by roughly 18 more minutes if implementation was perfect’). Devoted Africa in DC readers may recall my three point rebuttal to Moss back in February. I stand by it for the most part. While much needed, I’m doubtful that in the long run, US private sector engagement in the provision of electricity to Africa is helpful for the continent (after all, I remember my grandmother telling me that light bulb technology in this country was purposely degraded for decades so that companies would be able to move more product, true or not, I think that’s meaningful). However, it is good to see various US government agencies, from USAID to MCC collaborating on the initiative.
We don’t allow Muslims to run American ports – I wonder what Africans will think of private American companies making money from providing them with electricity?