The media has reported that Kenya has reached an agreement with the UK to build the High Grand Falls Hydroelectric Power Station / High Grand Falls Dam at a cost of KShs 425 Billion. The dam will be built on a PPP basis. So basically it will be a privately funded project like the Nairobi Expressway.
The government will sign an electricity and water purchase agreement with the owners of the dam. This is a very sad development. Haven’t we learnt anything from the slavery Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have put us through under the exploitative Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)?
If this project is built as planned, it means we will be buying water and electricity from the UK. We will be importing resources existing in our own country. We will be spending forex on our own water and electricity. There can be no better definition of neocolonialism. This is economic exploitation disguised as help.
I have followed this project since its conceptualisation in 2009. It is a shame it has taken so long to actualise it. It is said that the dam will produce 1,000 MW of electricity and irrigate 400,000 hectares of land. These are great outcomes if achieved. But why do we have to use a financing model that disadvantages us this much?
The cost of the dam has always been put in the media as KShs 150 Billion. Media reports also indicate that “the government, in 2014 finalised procurement with the China State Construction Engineering Corp to build the High Grand Falls Dam at a cost of Sh150 billion” Kenya Engineers.
How did the government abandon this process and revert to PPP model which now takes the cost to KShs 425 Billion? What is the reason for such cost escalation? Ethiopia’s GERD dam which will produce over 5,000MW cost them USD 5 Billion. Are we staring at another mega scandal?
The argument that the government has no money to fund the project from the budget doesn’t make sense. The dam will take six years to construct. The budgetary allocation will be spread across the years. Even at a cost of KShs 200 Billion, we would only need to set aside about KShs 34 Billion annually. Nothing overwhelming.
The desperation with which the country needs this project shouldn’t be used to justify signing exploitative deals. We must get value for money. We must not have to buy our own resources in foreign currencies. Why pay for what you own in the first place?
The cost of power is already too high due to the IPPs. Now they also want to privatise water and make it just as expensive. This should not be allowed to happen.