Category Archives: Lamu

Oil Pipeline, Economics & Politics

It’s been reported that the oil pipeline from Uganda is going to go through Tanzania, not Kenya. Two forgotten facts about the Uganda oil decision are that; (1) President Museveni of Uganda has been steadfast that he wanted to refine oil in Uganda, not export raw crude (2) Uganda’s oil has been said to be waxy or heavy. This means it would require complex heating to keep it flowing along a complex oil pipeline through the rift valleys and hills – to the coast of Kenya.

M7 poster 2

The cost, insecurity and difficulty of building infrastructure have been cited reasons that Uganda opted to go through Tanzania. Still Kenya has several LAPSSET projects on the cards including an oil pipeline to go to Lamu where there would be a new highway, railway, coal plant and modern, deep-sea port.

Pipeline Impact

Last year at the TDS Nairobi summit, during the 10th  Ministerial Conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a session was held on local content in extractive (and oil) industries. Some interesting comments there included:

  • It is a legitimate objective for any resource rich country to try to maximize the value of its resources.
  • If a country puts restrictions on raw exports, it may distort the local economy; it creates artificial demand – and if it is not efficient, local related industries will not survive.
  • Kenya energy expert Patrick Obath suggested that Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan have to talk together and implement projects together for projects like the oil pipeline to be viable. That would also have to happen to get more value-addition from the oil in the countries e.g. can the countries plan to get fertilizer from oil?
  • With mining, you have 20 years of opportunity for local suppliers and jobs, but with an oil pipeline that’s only there in the beginning, then goes away once the pipeline is built (there wont be many local jobs after, and communities don’t get an economic boom from having an oil pipeline passing through their land..which may lead to some local frustration).

More on Kenya Pipeline:

oil tankers

  • The Kenya Pipeline Company is charged with transporting and storing of petroleum products.
  • A (presidential task force on parastatal reforms proposes the Treasury incorporate a holding company known as the Government Investment Corporation (GIC), into which Kenya Pipeline Company should be transferred to determine (its) intended privatization.
  • Meanwhile Kenya Pipeline is continuing with its projects including replacing the current Mombasa-Nairobi Pipeline.

Lamu, Kenya and Amu Power – Part II

See Part I of the visit to Lamu with Amu Power

After the morning session with the county officials, we had a chance to visit the planned site of the Amu Power coal plant at Kwasasi, on the mainland. This was my third visit to Lamu in four years, but my first chance to visit the mainland of Lamu County.

The Lamu islands are incredibly beautiful, and once you experience Lamu, you are unlikely to look at Mombasa the same way again. It’s a beautiful place for tourists to visit; boat rides, the endless beaches of Shela, the quaint town with tiny streets, curio shops, friendly residents,  ancient buildings, tasty foods served on roof top restaurants, and a world heritage status conferred on the town.

Also for tourists who come to Lamu, unlike travel to Mombasa where they have to contend with at least an hour of traffic around both Jomo Kenyatta and Moi airports, they can fly to Lamu having skipped the traffic bit by using Wilson airport in Nairobi, while in Lamu, there’s no such thing at traffic – as you land on Manda island, walk 300 meters and get on a boat that can get you to a hotel or villa within ten minutes. But while it’s beautiful for tourists, life is not getting better for residents. The boat rides are expensive, unemployment is high, and education is low, and the land has other challenges.

Mainland jettyTo get to the Kwasasi site, we took a 15-minute boat ride to Mokowe jetty where several taxis were waiting. Mainland Lamu, which borders Somalia about 100 kilometers away, has been in the news over the last two years due to sporadic attacks and incidents, with the most catastrophic being Mpeketoni in June 2014, where 48 people were killed by a terror gang.

The first stop after stepping off the ferry on the mainland was to drive to the local police station to collect some armed policemen that the company had hired for the day. After that it was a long drive over about an hour that covered about 30 kilometers on narrow dry dusty roads. Lamu County is said to have 6 kilometers of tarmac, but this main road on the mainland had none.

Eventually, we got to a Navy base, which also marked the edge of the port area. This was our starting point and we drove along the fence of the navy base, which had a road then away from the fence with satellite tracking devices to pinpoint the coordinates of the corners of the site and this took about two hours to navigate. Amu Power had contracted a landscape architect to produce real life drawings of what the plant would look like in the current environment, and he took several pictures at each corner of the site and strategic points on the road.

Kwasasi 1The site of the plant was a large plain field with sparse bush. This was a shock as I expected to find warehouse sheds, office and residential buildings to mark the edge of a LAPSSET (The Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor) port city. But the place was sparsely populated and devoid of structures or developments.

This was apparently communal land, but there were sticks in the ground to mark boundaries in some places and burnt bushes in other places presumably for cultivation clearing. In some places targeted for LAPSSET projects, speculators in the area have pushed up the price of land five times in the last few years.

Another shock was seeing many women and girls walking along the road with yellow 20-liter drum, full of water. This is an arid area, with few water points and the role of fetching water is one performed by women who walk long distances. We later stopped at one of Amu Power’s CSR projects, which were a series of water tanks at a  central point to which a company lorry delivers water every week for area residents to use. It should not be the business of prospective investors to provide water, but that’s the reality of doing business in many parts of the world, and the water delivery has made life easier, with more to be done.

Hindi water pointAmu Power has plans for the construction of a water desalination plant, which will be the first ever, built in Kenya, and the excess of this will be shared with the local community.

We left just before sunset and asked the taxi driver about the ongoing curfew that was in the area. He said it was still in force, but had been relaxed of late.

After we got back to the Island we had a few more talks to recap the day. Earlier, one of the community leaders has  talked of the challenges Lamu had faced and why it had remained largely unchanged 50 years after independence with issues like  water shortages, transport challenges and lack of roads. He said, while Lamu was poor, there had been resistance to several past attempts to introduce development projects  in the area– including a fertilizer plant, the new port (because it would spoil fishing), and wind power in Shela (because it would spoil the water).

Kwasasi 2The day after the visit, as we prepared to leave and fly back to Nairobi, we started hearing reports of the ongoing attack at the university in Garissa. The full scale of the attack did not become apparent till later in the day.

It is expected that President Uhuru Kenyatta will be in the area in a few weeks to commission the first three berths of the Lamu port that is set to be completed in 2019.

The port, crude oil pipeline, the coal plant in Lamu and Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo Road will raise the profile of Lamu and thus the government’s investments to enhance the security profile of the area. The fringe benefits of this infrastructure will be to open up the Eastern and Northern part of Kenya to development and settlement, the way that the British railway did over 100 years ago between Mombasa and Kisumu.

Clearly, not only is change coming to Lamu, change has to come to Lamu. The LAPSSET projects and the coal plant are about 30 kilometers from Lamu town and the picturesque islands that most people in Lamu are familiar; that’s about the distance from Mombasa island to Diani beach and its possible that the two will coexist and mutually benefit like the South coast neighbours.

Lamu, Kenya and Amu Power: Part I

Earlier this month, I took a trip to the Lamu county at an invitation from the Gulf Energy side of Amu Power, and Gulf are the leading a project that will see the construction of a coal power plant that will generate 980 MW for Kenya.

This is part of an ambitious project by the government to invest in and diversify its future energy generation capacity, from one that’s relied for years on hydropower dams and more recently to diesel, geothermal and wind power sources.

The coal plant to be built by Amu Power is one of several large projects planned by the government for Lamu, and the team from Amu Power has been meeting with various stakeholders over the last few months including sessions with residents of the area, coastal governors, other politicians, and elders.

Amu Power at Lamu meet This one, at the American Centre in Lamu town, saw the Amu Power team meet with their community partners, and local county staff, led by the Lamu county commissioner, district officers and area chiefs, and DO’s. They form a vital link being the government administrators in the community, heading security and intelligence teams, and it was to explain what the company would be doing over the next 3 years.

The 980 MW Coal Plant in Lamu is being built for Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum on a build, own, operate and transfer basis for 20 to 25 years. But already, there has been some controversy by some NGO groups who have started a campaign in communities and on social media to stall or discredit the project. By having such sessions with the area leaders, Amu Power were hoping to avoid a repeat of issues such as in Kinangop where residents have delayed a wind power project.

Sanjay Gandhi, a consultant working for Amu Power, explained that coal plants of years past are not built anymore and there is new technology that mitigates the old environmental challenges that come from coal. He noted that all projects have effects on the community, but with good mitigation measures these can be alleviated. The Amu Power plant will be built by Chinese contractors, but to standards set by American institutions. Also the Amu Power offices will be on site and they will live and supervise the plant with full teams of staff for the next 25 years. Sanjay speech Lamu

Sanjay explained that Kenya needs the electricity and that peak demand has gone up from 899 MW in 2005 to 1,470 MW in 2014, with Lamu town itself still powered by diesel generators. KPLC is adding 200,000 customers every year, and it is expected that peak demand for electricity will reach 5,359 MW by 2017.

Coal is also the cheapest form of energy at 7.5 US cents (Kshs 6.30 per unit) compared to geothermal at 9 C, and solar and wind power 12 C /kwh (Kshs 8 per kilowatt-hour). He said coal is the most cost-effective way of generating industrial power, and once you turn it on, the plant will be able to run for 8 months without turning off. Kenya’s ability to add new hydro dams is diminishing and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are not consistent enough for industries to run.

The government’s only investment will be a through commitment to buy electricity 981.5 MW of electricity at Kshs 6.3 per unit and the Amu Power plant will be built  to handle different types of, whether from Kitui county (where coal has been found), or imported from South Africa, Mozambique, or Indonesia.

Amu Power is planning to complete the plant through 21 months of day and night work; this is  after 7 months were lost in court following the government decision to award them the project. They will build on 870 acres of land that the company will lease from Kenya Ports Authority who are buying land from residents in the area, and while actual boundaries have not all been determined, people have been buying and speculating on land value appreciation in and around the site.

They have identified a Chinese contractor to do the work, and the company wants 1,000 local youth to go to the National Youth Service (NYS) for 6 month training to be ready for work in October. They have started with Pate area and plan to find 100 people in each of the 10 Lamu wards to be trained and employed as masons, brick layers, welders, fitters, riggers, electricians – and if the contractor can’t find local people, they will get others from outside the area.

They estimate that the plant will need 2,000 employees on a full-time basis during construction, and 3,000 at peak. Thereafter, there will also be 500 permanent jobs for 25 years, and while early managers will be Chinese, there will be a requirement for each foreigner to have a Kenyan understudy throughout. There are opportunities for the local community to prepare and provide all that is necessary for these workers, such as housing and food in addition to supplying building materials for the construction. Lamu chiefs

After the talk, there was question and answer session in which local chiefs raised various points of concern including – plans for local fishermen who rely on fish catches for they livelihood, need to re-forest the area, need for completion of school classrooms, need for sea wall rebuilding in some places, a need to train youth in small business skills, the lack of bursaries for school kids, as well as the challenge of combating drugs and alcohol, which were mentioned in the Lamu county development plan. They also raised the issue of controversial payments for land ownership that has happened in some areas of the planned Lamu port.

The county commissioner spoke and appealed to chiefs to look at security in their areas, and talk to people, as ultimately, all Lamu people will benefit from the new Lamu projects. He noted chiefs have a lot of influence and can combat propaganda, as people still believe what a chief says and this has a big impact on communities. He asked the chiefs to look out for issues that concern him including ensuring that no one invades other people’s land, especially with violence, that they curb burning of bushes to eliminate historical land barriers, watch out for illegal cutting of forest trees and ensure that there are no more night weddings / night discos – as they had to put an end to the practice of school girls being married off.

See Part II which includes a visit to the proposed power plant site. 

Kenya gets Coal Power

Amu Power is a consortium of Gulf Energy on the technical side and Centum Investments who will do the funding side aims to be the only locally owned independent power producer and will produce 960MW  via coal power at the Kenyan coast.

The plant will be designed and built Chinese partners, supported by the ICBC, the world largest bank, with partial guarantees of the African Development Bank and built to World Bank standards for coal plants. The total cost of the project will be $2 billion and about  Kshs 36 billion will be spent in 21 months of construction around Lamu i.e. about Kshs 1.8 billion in a county that has an annual budget of Kshs. 1.6 billion

The backers are trying to work with the local community where there’s a local unemployment problem; they will need, train, and employ local certified welders plumbers, masons, bricklayers etc. Amu is planning to lease land from the Kenya Ports Authority in Kwasasi on the mainland (not on any of the Lamu islands) for their 100-acre plant that they will operate for 25 years. Coal plants are always set up next to large bodies of water and they plan for excess water they desalinate to be shared with the town people.

The Intention is to use coal from Kitui, Kenya once production there starts but the plant will be built to use South African grades of coal that may be imported in the interim. The founders say coal is necessary for industrial growth to a scale that hydro and renewable energy can’t match. South Africa is 94% powered by coal, the US 43%, China 81% and India 68%.

Lamu Moment

Change is coming to Lamu slowly. Long-term  plans for this part of the Kenya coast call for a new seaport, oil pipeline and highway all to centre on this small set of islands – and link them to Isiolo, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and further in Africa.
For now, it’s a prized holiday destination where  you don’t get hassled on the beach (as happens every 10 metres in Mombasa), you have to take a boat to get around to most places, (quite an expensive proposal for locals), Yamaha engines are the Toyota’s of the water, and Betty Tett wants to be MP.
What will Lamu, Manda, Shela and other places in the area look like in 10 years?