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Tanzania: Obama kicks soccer ball, generates power

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Jason Reed/Reuters

(Read caption) In Dar es Salaam Tanzania, Obama heads a soccer ball at Ubungo Power Plant Tuesday, July 2, 2013. The ball has internal electronics that allows it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

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President Obama kicked a soccer ball in Tanzania Tuesday, but it was more than just a soccer ball.

The so-called Soccket ball dribbled by the president captures kinetic energy that can later be used to power a light or charge a cell phone. It's the kind of innovative technology some hope can bring electricity to rural parts of Tanzania and other developing countries where traditional power grids are far from reach.

Mr. Obama, who played soccer as a child in Indonesia, used the ball to underscore his $7 billion plan to improve energy access across Africa.  

"I thought it was pretty cool," Obama said after batting the ball about, dressed in a buttoned-up suit jacket and tie. "You can imagine this in villages all across the country." 

The normal movement of the ball during play swings a pendulum-like mechanism inside the ball, which creates energy. After 30 minutes of play, the ball has stored away enough energy to power a simple LED lamp for three hours, according to its maker Uncharted Play. Perhaps best of all, its creators say, Soccket's playability barely differs from a normal ball.

Soccket is the brainchild of two Harvard University graduates who "realized that the world of play was truly uncharted territory when it came to tangibly addressing real issues..." The company is currently soliciting pre-orders of the ball, planning to use those funds to distribute kits of the energy-harnessing soccer ball to communities without access to reliable electricity.

Each so-called "Portable Power Kit" contains one Soccket ball and 10 portable lamps. The basic idea is to take a universal resource – play – and convert it into electricity, something hard to come by in many parts of the world. Children can play with the balls at school during the day, according to the company's website, and have enough electricity to power a light for reading or doing homework at night. 

After Obama kicked the ball into the air and bounced it off of his head, he helped attach opposite ends of a cable to the ball and a cellphone. In a speech afterwards, he outlined his "Power Africa" plan, which aims to double access to power in the world's poorest continent. 

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"I'm inspired because I'm absolutely convinced that with the right approach, Africa and its people can unleash a new era of prosperity," Obama said.

Only about a quarter of the sub-saharan African population has access to electricity, according to the World Bank, and African manufacturing companies experience power outages on average 56 days per year.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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