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Obama Plans to Power Africa—With Soccer Balls

8:05 AM, Jul 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, President Obama talked about bringing energy and power to the continent of Africa. Today, President Obama is expected to reveal that part of his Africa energy plan involves a soccer ball that carries an electric generator inside.

From the White House transcript of Obama's speech from yesterday:

I am proud to announce a new initiative.  We’ve been dealing with agriculture, we’ve been dealing with health.  Now we’re going to talk about power -- Power Africa -- a new initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.  Double it.  (Applause.)  We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources.  We’re going to partner with the private sector, who themselves have committed more than $9 billion in investment.  And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy.  We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms.  We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid.  And we’ll support clean energy to protect our planet and combat climate change.  (Applause.)  So, a light where currently there is darkness; the energy needed to lift people out of poverty -- that’s what opportunity looks like.

And then today, White House aide Mike Froman explained the soccer ball idea to the press aboard Air Force One, as the pool report details:

Mr. Froman also talked about POTUS's efforts to help bring reliable power to Africa, which will be the subject of an event in Tanzania on Tuesday morning. He noted as one example an invention designed to bring electricity to many of the small villages that are not connected to the grid.

POTUS will cite on Tuesday two women from Harvard who invented what's called the "socket ball" -- it's a soccer ball that has a small electric generator inside a soccer ball. As kids kick it around all day, it generates electricity and stores it in a battery.

Mr. Froman said that he and Mr. Rhodes tested out the "socket ball" and that it will be demonstrated Tuesday (though it's not clear that POTUS will kick the ball around or not.)

The pool reporter quotes Froman as saying, "Kids play soccer all day long. They take the thing, the ball home, and you can plug a lamp into it and they can read at night. Or they can plug a cell phone charger into it."

"The key thing is to make it possible for our businesses to come in, help them understand what the opportunities are, help them address the risks that they see."

"These roadblocks not only create delays but they create costs. At every roadblock there's a cost involved, and if we can reduce those that's a very positive development."

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