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Former US envoy and Kenyans in Sh471 billion Usahihi expressway deal

Former US ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter. [File, Standard]

Former US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter, along with four Kenyans are the men and women behind Everstrong Capital, which signed a Sh471 billion agreement to build a 440 km expressway linking Nairobi and Mombasa during President William Ruto's tour of the United States of America.

The four Kenyans are Henry Kyanda, Fahima Zein, Carol Njuguna and Wilson Wambugu who hold senior positions in the company that clinched the deal announced at President Ruto and US President Joe Biden's meeting at the White House.

Everstrong Capital, according to information on its website is a US based company with branches in South Africa and Kenya. Its local subsidiary was launched in Nairobi on December 2, 2020. The event featured speakers including the Company's Chairman McCarter and other guests to celebrate the company's second branch on the African continent.

“Founded in 2015, Everstrong is a US-owned infrastructure asset manager with offices in the US, Kenya, and South Africa. Everstrong aims to support development on the African continent to deliver critical infrastructure significantly improving the population’s welfare,” states the company's website.

“Everstrong Capital was founded with the objective of achieving attractive financial returns for our funders through investment in the energy & power, transportation, communication, water, healthcare, and housing sectors in sub-Saharan Africa,” Everstrong says on its website, adding, “They also capitalize on the substantial opportunities that exist in emerging markets.”

“Mr. McCarter is a successful entrepreneur with 23 years of experience in the manufacturing business. He created, grew, and sold profitable companies. Since 1987, he and his wife Victoria have lived and worked in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya, where they built the Faith Medical Clinic, a K-8 school, and a children’s home for Each1Feed1, a Christian ministry that provides care and education for orphans and widows,” says the website.

A graduate from Oral Roberts University in 1984 with a degree in Accounting, McCarter served as a member of the St. Clair County Board from 2000 to 2009 and served in the Illinois State Senate from 2009-2019.

Henry Kyanda, Everstrong Managing Director, is a former CEO and Trust Secretary of Kenya Power Pension Fund (KPPF). His bio on the website adds that he was responsible for strategic management, benefits administration, investment, financial and risk management, and portfolio management of diverse assets of the Pension Fund.

“Henry has served on the Advisory Boards of various private equity (PE) funds that have an East African focus and served on the boards of KPPF’s investee companies, including two electricity generation companies. Henry has over 10 years of portfolio management experience and was instrumental in developing KPPF’s alternative investment management function,” reads the profile.

Fahima Zein, Member, EKIF Investment Committee, her bio as captured on the company's website says she worked with the Trustee and Investment Services arm of Kenya Commercial Bank. Additionally, she was a founding member and first Vice President of the CFA Society of East Africa and sat on the Capital Markets Authority Steering Committee that developed the 10-year capital markets plan.

Carol Njuguna, the Finance and Administrative Manager at Everstrong says in her bio that she has extensive experience in accounting and financial management, including coordination of international audit and accounting assignments for companies in financial services, healthcare, education, manufacturing, service, and consumer business. She has previously held various positions within the Finance, Audit, and Risk departments at various companies and has been largely involved in company as well as project audits, outsourced accounting services to various established and startup companies.

“Carol is a qualified accountant also holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Information Technology from Strathmore University, Kenya, and is a member of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association,” her bio reads.

Wilson Wambugu, Investment Analyst, says in his bio that he has a keen interest in capital raising and its efficient deployment in promising projects that will help spur growth in emerging markets. Prior to joining Everstrong, Wilson spent two years at Maris Africa where he was involved in building financial models and conducting due diligence of investment opportunities in the agri-business and forestry sectors in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Sudan.

Wilson earned his BSc in Financial Economics from Strathmore University and an MSc in Finance from Nottingham Trent University.

The agreement between Kenya National Highways Authority and Everstrong follows a still birth deal with another US firm, Bechtel Engineering in July 2022, after the firm declined to participate in the Expressway project citing inflated costs.

Bechtel insisted on a contract model where the government would pay for the construction of the Sh318.25 billion expressway. The state had proposed a toll fee business model where an American firm would source funding and recoup its costs through toll fees. However, the company declined.

“Our approach will always set out to minimize building costs and pursue the fiscally responsible option,” the firm’s spokesperson Aileen Easton was quoted as saying in a story published by Citizen Digital. She added, “We are committed to providing the best possible value for money for the Kenyan people.”

Following the fallout with the American firm, Kenya reached an agreement with the Korean Overseas Infrastructure and Urban Development Corporation Africa (KID), according to an article in a local newspaper. KID agreed to undertake the project and has since submitted a feasibility study to government officials. However, the project stalled as the state sought investors globally.

“At the US Capitol last night, asking the question, how does the US lead in providing affordable and respectful infrastructure in Africa as a partner. I have only one answer. Usahihi-Swahili for precision, done correctly,” the former Ambassador McCarter tweeted on Wednesday.

The project, which has been in the making for years but stalled due to a mix of factors, appears to be back on track after the firm (Everstrong) signed a project development agreement with the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha). The agreement was signed during President William Ruto’s visit to the United States this week.

The 4 to 6 lane dual carriageway is projected to cost $3.6 billion touted to reduce traffic congestion and travel time between the two cities. 

“The Usahihi Expressway isn't just a project, it's a testament to the transformational power of doing things right. It symbolizes passion, commitment, and transparency, demonstrating how to deliver immense value, not only to Kenyan citizens but to the entire East Africa region. It's about changing lives and shaping the future of Kenya,” said Kyle McCarter, Everstrong Capital Partner & Usahihi Chairman.

President William Ruto, on his state visit to the US, said that the visit has reinforced the enduring friendship, solidarity, and mutual endeavors that have united the two nations. He said the partnership between Kenya and the US has yielded significant achievements over the past 60 years, keeping both nations strong, effective, and dynamic in their collective pursuit of freedom, equality, and prosperity.

“We are proud of our robust ties and the shared values which form a strong bond of friendship,” he said during a State Dinner hosted in his honor by host President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House.

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