The US government has pledged $7 billion over five years to the Power Africa initiative with another $9 billion available from private funds.
The money will be invested on improving the region's energy infrastructure and boosting development of geothermal, hydro, solar and wind generation. The venture will begin in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Only about a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa's population has access to electricity, compared to about half in South Asia, and more than 80% in Latin America, the Middle East and northern Africa.
"Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age," said President Obama at the launch of Power Africa. "It's the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs and it's the connection that's needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy."