There was a time when Kenyans had every reason to be proud of their country. I am referring here to the period from independence to the late 1970s.
During that time, Kenya was renowned for its economic progress as much as for its famous athletes. And every time Kenyans created a new piece of infrastructure, reference was made to “the best in East and Central Africa”.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was the biggest and the best airport in the region. Same as Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya Breweries, Kenya Cooperative Creameries and so were many others from banks to Kilindini Port in Mombasa.
The Hilton Hotel, at the time it was built was the tallest building in East and Central Africa. And the Kenyatta International Convention Centre was for many years the premiere conference facility in Africa. And we also had the UNEP complex at Gigiri, the only United Nations centre in a developing nation.
Somewhat, we lost this trend towards always being the best in the region. So much so that even when the Standard Gauge Railway was built, it was unfavourably compared to its Ethiopian equivalent, which apparently was both cheaper and better.
And even as Kenya struggles to solve the problem of urban traffic and to get rid of the traffic jams in Nairobi, Dar-es-salaam already has a Rapid Transit System, which Nairobi still has not seen any sign of.
So, when President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the inauguration of the Lake Turkana Wind Farm project, many of us old timers let out a sigh of relief at this undisputed proof that Kenya is back to being “the best in East and Central Africa”. The Sh70-billion project located in northern Kenya is the biggest wind farm in Africa.
For this reason, it cements Kenya’s position as a safe and reliable investment destination. The wind farm was funded in part by Proparco, the French Development institution providing long term financing for projects around the world, which mobilised Sh5.6 billion (50 million euros) to Lake Turkana Wind Power Limited. This flagship project will supply 17 per cent of the electricity generated annually. This energy is 60 per cent cheaper than that generated by thermal power plants.
The project is the largest private investment ever made in Kenya (EUR 620m), in the words of Jean-Benoît du Chalard, Proparco’s Regional Director for East Africa, who said the project is now connected to the grid and should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 380,000 tons of CO2 a year. It will improve access to reliable, sustainable and cheaper electricity.
The project created 2,500 jobs during the construction phase and 200 permanent jobs for the operation phase. Since it commenced operations in September 2018, it has produced 1.2 billion kWh into the grid, thereby achieving an average capacity factor in excess of 63 per cent — an incredible global feat.
Even before its launch, LTWP had changed lives. It has built a 208km road that cuts down travel time from Laisamis to Sarima from 7 hours to 2.5 hours. It has opened trade, investment and economic activity; improved security and access to health and education opportunities.
The successful completion of this project showcases Kenya as a safe and reliable investment destination and demonstrates a strong ability to implement successful public-private partnerships. – The writer is Special Projects Editor, People Daily.