China is set to construct a solar power plant in Kenya as part of an ongoing investment plan between the two countries, media reports said Sunday. The 50-megawatt plant, which is planned to be built in the city of Garissa, will be financed by the Export-Import Bank of China, reports said, citing China’s ambassador to Kenya, Liu Xianfa.
The project is reportedly set to be one of Africa’s largest solar power installations, and is part of a $5 billion investment project announced by China in Kenya. Liu had earlier said that the project will not only provide energy to the region but also bring economic prosperity and help quell rising radicalization in the area. Garissa was the site of a deadly attack on a university in April that claimed the lives of 148 students.
“The Export-Import Bank will provide a concessional loan to Kenya in order to complete the renewable energy project,” Liu said, according to local news site Daily Nation. “The project is still under plan and I expect that there will be a launching ceremony on site very soon.”
The deal also calls for the construction of a rail line and a wildlife conservation project in addition to the energy plan. Kenya is China’s second-largest trading partner, and is expected to become East Africa’s first oil exporter by 2016, while China is the world’s largest oil importer.
Figures from the Chinese embassy in Kenya reportedly show that bilateral trade between the two nations was worth over $5 billion in 2014, an increase of over 50 percent on the previous year. On the other hand, several Chinese nationals in Kenya have been linked to trafficking and wildlife poaching cases. Last January, a Kenyan court slapped a record fine of $233,000 against a Chinese ivory smuggler.
Nairobi is also currently looking at a series of nine potential sites for solar power plants, to provide over half the country's power.
“We hope that when the entire project is completed by 2016, more than 50 percent of Kenya's energy production will consist of solar. Already we are witnessing solar investments in Kenya such as a factory that was opened here in 2011 that manufactures solar energy panels," Cliff Owiti, a senior administrator at the Kenya Renewable Energy Association, told the Guardian.
Kenya is also planning the construction of what is set to be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest wind farm near Lake Turkana.
"These agreements deepen our practical co-operation. China supports Kenya's quest for industrialization," Chinese President Xi Jinping had said, while announcing the deals in 2013.