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Politicians hijacked project to woo voters ahead of August poll

By Paul Wafula | Published Sun, March 19th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 18th 2017 at 23:34 GMT +3

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Last Mile project in May 2015. Under this project, Kenyans are expected to pay a subsidised fee of Sh15,000. Another selling point has been that consumers have the option of paying the amount upfront or in installments through their monthly bills.

There is even a provision where customers are allowed to pay the connection fee alongside their monthly bills for two years. This eliminates the biggest hurdle to the acceleration of rural electrification who saw the previous Sh35,000 as too steep.

The project has won rare accolades and support from many international financiers who are throwing billions of shillings to support its implementation. So far it has received funding and commitment of about Sh50 billion, a significant amount to take it off the ground.

The projec  has also been a major selling point for the President at major public rallies. The project was divided into three phases and it is expected to get power to more than 600,000 households. The first phase is expected to be completed by June this year, just two months before the next general election.

Politicians were the first to dig in after they smelt its potential to be a major election driver. This saw them demand to be fully involved in the process at the grassroots. To begin with, the transformers have been distributed to each constituency using the Constituencies Development Fund allocation criteria.

Kenya Power was asked to formally write to all Members of Parliament, indicating the transformers that will benefit their areas and the areas where they are.

About 5,320 transformers targeted in the first phase were selected from all the 290 constituencies in the 47 counties based on the Government’s policy that aims to address equity in terms of reticulation and access. Based on this policy, counties with low penetration were to benefit the most.

The selection criteria is also based on data from Kenya Power regions regarding the potential to connect additional households within 600 metres of the company’s existing distribution transformers spread across the country. Counties with fewer households having access to electricity will have more of their transformers maximised to benefit from the programme.

In the counties where not all transformers will be selected, transformers with the lowest connection cost per household will be given priority. This will mostly be dictated by population density and the location of the existing electricity network.

Kenya power connects on average about 5000 people in a day. Phase one, which was launched in April last year, is financed by the Government of Kenya and the African Development Bank at a cost of Sh13.5 billion targeting 314,000 households. Ten contractors were handed the project.

The second phase is financed by the World Bank to a tune of Sh15 billion and targets to connect 312,500 households to the national grid. Kenya Power said implementation of this phase is expected to start later this financial year. The firm aims to connect over a million new customers every year.

Under this phase, Kenya Power will procure prepaid meters, poles, cables, conductors and 1,000 transformers for grid extension, on behalf of contractors as per the World Bank’s procurement guidelines. Other components of this phase entail the construction of low-voltage distribution lines, supervision and management, and capacity-building activities in targeted areas of expertise.

The African Development Bank committed an additional Sh13.3 billion funding to maximise another 5,320 transformers to connect 310,850 households. Of this amount about Sh10 billion will be a concessional sovereign loan from the French Government and the remaining a grant from European Union.

Kenya Power also indicated that it was in talks with the French Development Agency (AFD) for another Sh11 billion (100 million euros) for implementation of the third phase of the project targeting maximisation of 3,830 existing distribution transformers and installation of 400 new transformers to benefit additional 230,000 households.

Other development partners such as the KfW of Germany, Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) have expressed interest in supporting the project. The project has 11 Lots comprising 10 Lots for Works Contractors and 1 Lot for prepaid meters.

The backers of the project reckon that the cost of extending the power supply network remains the biggest challenge to electrification especially in Kenya’s rural and low income areas.

Kenya Power has been banking on the project to support its target to connect over one million new customers every year in an effort to achieve the 70 per cent connectivity milestone by 2017. Feedback Infra Pvt Ltd and Maknes Consulting Engineers Ltd won the tender to supervise and manage the project.

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