Barack Obama

President Obama, calling for the U.S. to “up our game” when it comes to Africa, on Sunday announced a $7 billion government-backed initiative to increase access to electric power in sub-Saharan Africa.

He unveiled the plan during a speech to students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, a major stop on the president’s tour of the continent.

Obama said the U.S. government would spend at least $7 billion toward the goal of doubling access to electric power, bolstered by investments from private sector partners.

Obama, painting a portrait of a rising Africa, argued that the U.S. should get more involved in its success — for its own benefit.

“My own nation will benefit enormously if you reach your full potential,” he said.

Obama, who flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Sunday, was also paying tribute to the ailing 94-year-old Nelson Mandela throughout the day. The president and his family visited Robben Island, where the anti-apartheid leader spent 18 years confined to a tiny cell, including a stop at the lime quarry where Mandela toiled and developed the lung problems that sent him to the hospital for most of the month.