Obama unveils electricity access initiative

The US will spend 7 billion dollars to double electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The US president unveils a 7 billion dollar project for Sub-Saharan Africa to double access to electricity. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - While electricity tariffs for residents who purchase power through the City of Cape Town increase by eight percent on Monday United States President Barack Obama has unveiled a US$7 billion project for sub-Saharan Africa to double the region's access to electricity.

This is a double whammy for consumers as fuel prices also go up this week.

The petrol price is set to increase by 84 cents a litre from Wednesday while the price of diesel will increase by 78 cents a litre.

Obama concluded his two-day visit of South Africa with a speech at the University of Cape Town on Sunday night.

He said access to electricity is fundamental for Africa's growth.

"Power Africa is a new initiative that will double access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa. We're going to start by investing US$7 billion in US government resources. We're going to develop new sources of energy. We're going to reach more households, not just in cities but in villages and on farms."

Obama said Africa was rising, but not fast enough.

"There's no question that Africa's on the move but it's not moving fast enough for the child still anguishing in poverty and forgotten townships. It's not moving fast enough for the protester who's beaten in Harare."

The US president also called for a summit next year to launch a new chapter in African-US relations.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is deeply opposed to the electricity price increase as it will hit the poor the hardest.

The union's General Secretary Irvin Jim said, "An eight percent increase means you're basically squeezing those communities and those families who support three to four other families who don't have a plate of food on their tables."

Jim said it was matters such as this which sparked protests in Cape Town communities.

"This is going to trigger old questions like service delivery protests because people are peeved and the economy currently is not in good shape at all to be able to afford this eight percent."