World Bank approves Sh28.9b for Great Lakes power plant

By Protus Onyango

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors yesterday approved Sh28.9 billion ($340 million) funding for the Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project.

The project is expected to benefit 62 million people in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. 

It is the first project under the World Bank Group Great Lakes Regional Initiative inaugurated in May.

The overall project, which is expected to generate 80 megawatts of power, will cost Sh39.8 billion.

It will reduce electricity costs, promote renewable power, spur job-led economic development and pave the way for more dynamic regional cooperation, peace and stability in the region, the bank said.

The financing comes from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries.

“This landmark project will have transformational impact, bringing lower-cost energy to homes, businesses and clinics in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania,” said Colin Bruce, the bank’s strategy, operations and regional integration director.

Only four per cent of the population in Burundi has access to electricity, with corresponding figures in Rwanda and Tanzania being 13 and 14 per cent, respectively.  “The new power plant signals the bank’s commitment to keeping the lights on across the African continent, which is necessary for achieving growth, ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank’s director for sustainable development in the Africa region.

While other parts of sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing high growth rates, the bank noted that countries of the Great Lakes region have had extremely high levels of poverty and very low levels of key services, including access to electricity.

In 2011, the World Bank helped 1.4 million people in African countries access electricity.