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Obama's African energy policy involves soccer balls

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures during a town hall meeting with young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg Soweto on Saturday, June 29, 2013, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The president is in South Africa, embarking on the second leg of his three-country African journey. The visit comes at a poignant time, with former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela ailing in a Johannesburg hospital. Credit: AP

During one of his pitstops in South Africa over the weekend, President Obama announced a new initiative to bring energy and power to the continent. As the Weekly Standard points out, the president's new plan involves electric soccer balls...

(Image: Getty)

From the transcript of Obama's remarks (emphasis mine):

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.

On Monday, White House aide Mike Froman offered the press further details about this initiative aboard Air Force One:

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.)

"Kids play soccer all day long," Froman added.  "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."

Fantastic.  They might not have access to clean drinking water, but by God there will be soccer and cell phone chargers.

One last thing…
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