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Kenya electricity: President Uhuru Kenyatta attending the launch of The Last Mile Connectivity Project in Tala, Kenya

On Wednesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was accompanied by various MPs from across the region for the official launch of the last phase of The Last Mile Connectivity Project in the Eastern town of Tala, Kenya.

Kenyatta tweeted to his followers on Wednesday: “I launched the Last Mile Connectivity Project, an initiative geared towards increasing electricity access to Kenyans.”

The East African electricity project, which stretches from Kenya’s second largest city Mombasa to the country’s capital Nairobi, was initiated by the government to deliver affordable power to marginalised areas by connecting otherwise unconnected households to the national electricity grid.

Connecting the community

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the project will benefit an estimated 1,571,000 local residents while maximising the usage of Kenya Power’s existing 35,000 distribution transformers, The Business Daily Africa reported.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) said in a statement: “Under the initiative, the existing distribution transformers will be exploited to their maximum by extending low voltage networks to households located in the vicinity of the transformers.”

The bank added: “The proposed project will cover the entire country, with selected transformers in 47 counties and expected to directly benefit low income groups, largely in counties with the lowest penetration rate.”

The AfDB said that the national electricity access is 32% with rural electrification access at 19% and per capita consumption is at 130kWh compared to the 550kWh average for sub-Saharan Africa, CNBC Africa reported.

Tariff charge

Earlier this year, Ben Chumo, managing director of power utility Kenya Power, told the Business Daily: “We will soon be announcing a standard connection charge below the current [$356] based on the last mile connectivity project.”

He added: “The bid document is now being prepared and we look to be over with procurement by end of April so that the project starts in May.”

Financial support

The AfDB said: “The total project cost is estimated at $147 million, with the government of Kenya contributing the remaining $14 million.”

The project was granted $133 million by the AfDB to achieve its objective of expanding electricity access to remote communities in the region in November 2014.

In earlier reports, ESI Africa reported that Alex Rugamba, director of the AfDB’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department acknowledged the importance of The Last Mile Connectivity Project for the overall socio-economic development of the country.

Rugamba said: “In addition to impeding economic growth, Kenyans’ low level of access to electricity is provoking environmental degradation.”

He added: “Rural residents without electricity are forced to consume biomass, including fuel-wood for cooking and lighting.

“As a result, there is ongoing deforestation in many areas. This project will increase access to modern reliable and affordable energy supply which will in turn encourage Kenya’s transition to green growth.”