A joint venture between the government of Kenya and private investors soon will receive a million-dollar grant from the Obama administration solely to study whether to build a solar power plant in Gitaru, Kenya.
Evaluation of the proposed Gitaru plant is the first of six feasibility studies in Kenya for which the U.S. Trade & Development Agency, or USTDA – an independent White House agency – separately will provide funds.
The studies, however, merely represent preliminary actions that the administration is taking to execute recent portions of its $7 billion “Power Africa” plan, a congressionally approved five-year project to deploy primarily “green” power capabilities across Kenya and other sub-Saharan nations.
Feasibility studies are carried out by USTDA-selected private-consulting firms, which must be U.S. entities under agency policy. If and when the consultancies give a go-ahead for the respective Kenyan endeavors, USTDA then typically recommends that other U.S.-funded entities such as the Export-Import Bank, or Ex-Im, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, provide additional financing to grant recipients.
In the latest instance, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, or KenGen – in which the Kenyan government holds a 70 percent stake – requested USTDA assistance to “evaluate the technical and economic viability” of the proposed Gitaru solar project.
According to a recently updated contracting notice, the agency on behalf of KenGen will pay $998,000 to a contractor to conduct the study and to analyze data needed to develop and finance the initiative.
Two days after USTDA posted the revised solicitation to the FedBizOpps contracting database, KenGen asked its Facebook followers, “Did you know the renewable energy sector in Kenya is one of the most active in Africa?”
Indeed, U.S. taxpayers will help make that sector even more active in the not-too-distant future through a minimum of five additional grants.
USTDA during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in September disclosed the following Power Africa-related programs in Kenya, but did not disclose the estimated costs.
- Nyakwere Hills Solar Photovoltaic, or PV, Plant: USTDA and Quaint Energy Kenya Ltd. agreed to a partnership in which they will arrange to build a 40 MW solar PV power plant in eastern Kenya. USTDA said the endeavor will “reduce or avoid tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year as an alternative to fossil fuel power sources.”
- Solar Microgrid Solutions for Island & Village Electrification: USTDA is joining forces with the non-profit Renewable World East Africa to create “minigrid solar and battery storage systems” at eight Kenyan locations. USTDA has selected Renewvia Energy Corp. of Atlanta to conduct the feasibility study. Though the agency did not disclose an estimate, it said the cost will be shared by Renewvia.
- Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant: USTDA on behalf of Akiira Geothermal Limited will review the viability of a proposed geothermal power plant outside of Nairobi.
- Lamu Gas-to-Power Project: USTDA and Zarara Oil & Gas Limited have signed a grant agreement to assess various aspects (“technical, economic and environmental””) of a proposed gas-to-power energy initiative on Pate Island.
- Isiolo Solar PV Power Plant: USTDA on behalf of Green Millennia Energy Ltd. has chosen SunPower of San Jose, California to conduct a feasibility study of a proposed solar PV power plant in Isiolo, a city in central Kenya. Though USTDA signed a cost share agreement with Sunpower, it did not disclose the terms of the agreement nor the estimated project cost.
Corporate piece, tribal peace
WND for several years now has reported extensively on U.S. assistance to Kenya, which initially decreased during Obama’s first term – as did the budgets for many assistance programs – but then grew “exponentially,” in USAID’s own words, in subsequent years.
The overall U.S. aid-to-Kenya budget has vacillated, dropping to $508 million in FY 2012 but then rising to $674 million by FY 2014. But even as overall expenditures dropped – indeed, despite those initial cost decreases – the voluminous growth in the number of separate U.S.-financed Kenyan projects led to USAID’s admission that it faced difficulty in managing them.
In 2012, for instance, these program-management challenges necessitated the hiring of new vendors to support existing contractors already doing business in the East African nation.
The administration likewise had inadvertently leaked a USAID propaganda initiative – which WND was first to discover – to sway how “opinion leaders” in government and in global media were depicting U.S. operations in Kenya.
The strategic plan offered painstaking detail about how the federal government would mirror the public relations industry in focusing on “specific journalists at key media outlets to be groomed to cover targeted issues over time.”
USAID then sanitized the federal contracting database of this project, declaring that its release was unintentional. The agency then removed the document from public view.
USAID one year later released a revised Kenyan aid plan, dropping the propaganda package from the endeavor and simultaneously repackaging it as a health-specific project.
Other noteworthy Obama-led endeavors in and around Kenya in his two terms include a tribal-peace program that centered upon the provision of “reflective workshops” among Kenyan and Ugandan tribes.
The administration launched the initiative despite acknowledging that chronic cattle rustling and other cultural practices – such as killing rivals “to prove their manhood or impress young women” – might serve as impediments to progress.
Though the administration over the past eight years also provided security, food- and health-related aid, many of those programs – in Kenya as well as in other nations worldwide – simply served to enrich U.S. contractors while relieving financial pressure on foreign taxpayers and government officials.
Indeed, in addition to spending billions on trade subsidies, the administration had created resource guides and held multiple handout summits both in and outside the U.S., helping various industries and governments – such as the Mexican government plus those across Africa – to more easily tap into the U.S. Treasury.
USTDA in 2013, for example, created of a guide that both taught the Mexican government to effectively access U.S. grants while steering U.S. industry toward contracts whose purpose was to modernize Mexico.
The agency funneled $100,000 toward the creation of this “Resource Guide for U.S. Industry on Priority Infrastructure Projects,” which it unveiled at the separately funded three-day ConnectMEX forum in Mexico City.
That same year the administration separately held a “U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit” in various U.S. locations.
While the summit’s official theme was “Investing in the Next Generation,” a closer inspection revealed that U.S. taxpayers again ultimately would pay for a combination of business subsidies and foreign assistance for which there would be little or no return on such “investments.”
The White House touted the summit as a way to “build” on the president’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013, when U.S. taxpayers paid $60 to $100 million for the Obama family’s lavish comforts and entertainment.
The Cato Institute – one of the few consistent critics of USTDA, Ex-Im, and OPIC – has designated the three entities as the most egregious examples of corporate-welfare waste.
Dan Ikenson, director of the Cato’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, testified before Congress last year that such export subsidies cause more harm than good.
Export subsidization may reduce business costs for the chosen U.S. exporter “and reduces the cost of capital for his foreign customer,” but harms competing U.S. exporters, he said.
“Why should U.S. taxpayers underwrite – and U.S. policymakers promote – the interests of exporters, anyway, when the benefits of those efforts accrue, primarily, to the shareholders of the companies enjoying the subsidized marketing or matchmaking?” Ikenson testified.
“There is no national ownership of private export revenues,” he said.