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Remarks at the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative Signing Ceremony

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Location: Washington, DC

Thank you for being with us. All of us in this room understand that the challenges we face today increasingly present a sort of blurred line between economic policy and foreign policy. I've said frequently foreign policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy. And our shared prosperity globally depends on how well we work together to be able to promote trade, attract investment, facilitate commercial activity, and especially innovation.

So it's not just a privilege for me to be able to be here with the OPIC President Elizabeth Littlefield and USTDA Director Lee Zak, it's a responsibility. And I am enormously grateful for their partnership, and you'll understand why as we describe what we're going to be doing.

We all know that climate change is a crisis that waits for no one and it respects no border. It's not a challenge of the future; it's here now. We are witnessing it in country after country in various ways whether it's water supplies, drought, food agriculture, food security, fisheries, you name it. There isn't a part of the world where they aren't having some consequence as a result of what is happening. And it's also happening at a pace that is particularly alarming to people. We also know that focusing only on sort of that reality without providing some alternatives is not adequate. And we're not going to do that, particularly when there are remarkable opportunities that are staring us in the face.

The fact is that good energy solutions are climate solutions. The solution to climate change is energy policy -- the choices that we make with respect to our energy polices of the future. And nowhere is that more true than in Africa. Africa can be a clean energy beacon for the world, and energy prosperity can actually replace energy poverty. This morning I met with the chair of the African Union, and she was talking to me as I did -- in fact, with several presidents of countries, all of whom talked to me about their desire to leapfrog the mistakes, to go quickly into clean and alternative and renewable energy rather than the exploitation of fossil fuel and carbon and all of the problems that come with it.

The United States wants to support countries across Africa that make that transition to the clean energy future more rapidly. And that's why we launched the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative. And that's why I am proud to announce today that we are planning to commit an additional $10 million to this effort.

More than 600 million Africans, nearly twice the population of the United States of America, live without access to electricity today. And our challenge is clear: We need to change those numbers and replace them with a partnership that benefits all sides by making sure that African companies, African cities, African towns, African families have access to clean and renewable energy. Through President Obama's Power Africa initiative and the agreements that OPIC and TDA are signing today, we are doing exactly that.

And I'm very proud that U.S.-ACEF is elevating our efforts in very tangible ways. Our partners are using U.S.-ACEF funding to develop the first utility-scale wind power project in Senegal. They're developing Rwanda's first large-scale, grid-connected solar PV project. And they're developing plans for hydro-plants in Rwanda that will supply power to Shyira Hospital and villages in the north, bringing electricity to thousands of households for the very first time.

Now I want to emphasize the work that we are doing here is not hypothetical, it's not future, it's not a theory; it's real and it's now. And it's real lives that we are improving as a consequence.

I'll never forget just a few months ago I walked into the Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa. And as I walked into the front gate, on the back I saw this big sign on the wall saying "Ethiopia and the United States of America investing in a healthy future together." That sign tells it all, my friends. Together we're not just investing in a healthier future today; we're investing in a cleaner, more sustainable future for all Africans. And that is the challenge that we face, and it's one that we believe will be made easier as people everywhere begin to realize that the 21st century, the challenge of developing clean and renewable sources of energy in this century isn't a break on economic growth. It's not something that holds you back. It is, in fact, the definition of possibilities. It is the engine of economic growth. And we intend to prove that with this initiative and with these projects and with so much more of what will happen with respect to the energy choices of Africa.

Thank you. (Applause.)


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