Kenya to benefit from Obama's $7b Africa power plan

Wind turbines at the Ngong power station in the outskirts of Nairobi. Rising demand for energy in Kenya has spurred the government to look look for alternative sources like wind, geothermal and solar.  

Kenya is set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in US government and corporate funding through an electricity-generation initiative announced on Sunday by President Barack Obama.

Kenya is one of six black African "partner countries" chosen to take part in the five-year, $7 billion effort to light a total of 20 million homes and businesses.

Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia are also included in Mr Obama's "Power Africa" initiative.

A White House fact sheet says Kenya and the five other countries "have set ambitious goals in electric power generation and are making the utility and energy sector reforms to pave the way for investment and growth."

The plan is intended to leverage private-sector investments in power generation in black Africa totalling an additional $9 billion, the White House says.

It offers current examples such as Aldwych International's commitment to invest $1.1 billion in the first large-scale wind power projects in Kenya and Tanzania.

Harith General Partners is investing another $70 million in wind energy in Kenya, the White House says.

And Kenya will share with Ghana and Nigeria in a $250 million African Finance Corporation investment in power generation, the fact sheet adds.

But Kenya is unlikely to receive any portion of the $1 billion in Power Africa investments planned by the US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Kenya has repeatedly been disqualified from MCC assistance on the grounds that the country is failing to reduce corruption.

"A light where currently there is darkness -- the energy to lift people out of poverty -- that's what opportunity looks like," Mr Obama told students at Cape Town University in South Africa. "So this is America's vision: a partnership with Africa for growth, and the potential for every citizen, not just a few at the top."

About 85 per cent of Kenyans lack access to electricity, according to the United Nations.

Power Africa may come to be seen as Mr Obama's main legacy to Africa -- the equivalent of President Clinton's Agoa trade programme and President George W Bush's Aids relief effort.

A development expert at a Washington think tank told the Nation four months ago that although Mr Obama had as of then achieved "nothing legacy-worthy" in regard to Africa, "electricity is his chance."

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