China has unveiled its plans to build a mega solar power plant that will generate 50 megawatts of pure energy in Garissa, Kenya. The project is part of the ongoing investment initiatives that bind both countries to widen their economic alliances.
According to Liu Xianfa, China’s Ambassador to Kenya, the financial brain behind the project is the Export-Import Bank of China. Founded in 1994, the state bank is solely owned by the government of China and managed by its State Council. While its main push is to facilitate the import and export of China-made products, it is also helps in promoting bilateral trade agreements to bolster international economic cooperation. With the current demand for renewable energy and Kenya, a known ally, it aims to get involved in the promising future of solar energy.
The Garissa facility, once completed this year, will be the largest solar power installation in Africa. It is part of the $5 billion investment project that China has offered to the government of Kenya to boost bilateral economic relations between the countries. According to Ambassador Liu, the project’s goal is not only focused on providing cleaner energy to the region but also boosting the economic prosperity and assuaging the rise of radicalisation in Garissa.
Economic Growth for Social Change
Interestingly the chosen area for the mega solar farm has a violent history fueled by the growing unrest from extremist groups in the area. In April this year, a number of masked gunmen thought to be local Al-Qaeda subsidiary, Al-Shabaab, stormed the nearby Garissa University College campus leaving behind 147 people dead and injuring hundreds more.
The hostage crisis had left a huge scar to the community being the deadliest in Kenyan history since the US embassy bombing in 1998 and second deadliest overall in terms of casualties. The project aims to quell this growing unrest by providing economic development and lower tensions in an attempt to turn the radical mindset to one of prosperity and peace.
“In order to complete the Garissa renewable energy project, the country’s Export-Import Bank will offer Kenya a concessional loan. Though this is still in the planning stage, it is expected to have a big celebration and launching ceremony soon,” said Liu to the local news website Daily Nation.
Kenya and China – A History of Economic Ties
The billion-dollar project also covers construction of a railway system as well as a wildlife conservation project in order to maintain sustainable and ethical practices. Kenya and China are known for their bilateral economic relations. To date, Kenya is China’s second largest trading partner and with the 2016 forecast as East Africa’s biggest oil exporter, this only means stronger ties with China as the world’s largest importer of oil.
In 2014 alone, figures reported in the Chinese Embassy positively identify the growing bilateral trade between China and Kenya amounting to $5 billion. This shows an increase of 50 percent from its 2013 results. Aside from Garissa, Nairobi is also searching for potential sites to house various solar power plants that will cater to half of the country’s energy needs.