No. 20: African Countries Drive Geothermal Development Amid US-China Brinksmanship

A geothermal well at the Menengai crater. Credit: Suleiman Mbatiah

United Nations climate talks end today in South Africa and the United States and China are playing chicken on who will take the lead in stewarding the environment well while also driving economic development. Quietly, Kenya has signed major deals just this year that will see the opening of at least three plants that will grow Kenya’s geothermal capacity to 514 megawatts (MW) by 2014. By 2030, Kenya aims for geothermal energy to make up 5000 MW of the total 15,000 MW of power the country will produce to meet growing demand – an estimated $16 billion investment. Imagine that, an African country driving the uptake of clean and renewable energy.

Experts estimate that Kenya has the potential to generate 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW. The country began developing geothermal in the 1980s and currently produces about 209 MW. In 2008, the country set its geothermal power goal in the Vision 2030 strategic plan. Since that time Kenya has aggressively grown geothermal with the 36 MW expansion of the 48 MW Olkaria III, the construction of the 280 MW Olkaria IV, and the drilling of the 1,600 MW Menengai field.

Contrary to what the Wall Street Journal reported on December 6, Kenya is not the only African country developing geothermal energy. Kenya lies within the East African Rift System that runs 6,500km from Tunisia to Mozambique. In a recent conversation with Dr. Meseret Zemedkun of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), she explained that some countries in the East African region are looking to complement their current hydropower capacity, while others like Eritrea and Djibouti are looking for primary renewable energy sources. Ethiopia has drilled a pilot 7 MW plant. Eritrea is conducting detailed exploration. Djibouti is drilling wells, and Uganda and Rwanda are conducting semi-detailed and detailed exploration.

According to Dr. Zemedkun, “[African] countries are very keen to develop their resources.” She cited the high availability rate of geothermal compared to hydropower – 90-95 percent versus 50-55 percent. Changes in weather impact the availability of hydropower whereas geothermal energy is not impacted by changes in weather. Furthermore, enhanced technology is reducing the unit price of geothermal energy, increasing its accessibility to African countries.

Dr. Zemedkun is currently driving the African Rift Geothermal Project, an initiative that brings together several African countries in working to build their geothermal capacity. It also helps reduce the risks of exploration through exploration studies, site selection, and surface exploration. UNEP partners with the World Bank in this work, leveraging its risk mitigation fund to further the exploration of geothermal energy.

I am excited about the work Kenya is doing to develop its geothermal energy capacity. Its leadership has also kickstarted the exploration of geothermal energy in other countries along the East African Rift System. Hopefully, the US and China will figure out a way to do their part and contribute to the preservation of this earth while meeting the economic needs of their citizens.

No. 15: Incredible Uganda – Week 1

I have been eager to update you on my first week in Uganda. The past week that I have spent in Uganda has been a tremendous time of soaking in observations of Uganda’s business and governance environment.

My first meeting of the week was with Dr. Yasin Ziraba, Chairman of the National Steering Committee for the Innovation Systems and Cluster Programmes of Uganda ( This is an incredible program that works to foster innovation, collaboration, and competition among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda. If you are into collaboration, this is a program to watch out for. I cannot wait to connect you with this program when I get back to Atlanta.

Dr. Yasin Ziraba commenting during an ICT facilitator training session for the Uganda Clusters Program

We discussed how this program brings together enterprises operating in the same sector and forms them into clusters according to their geographic location. Some examples of the successes clusters have had through this program include the following:

-The Management Consulting cluster securing a contract with Emirates Airline to hire 300 personnel for the airlines operation in Uganda.
-The Katwe Metal Fabrication cluster building an entire car from scratch.
-The ICT cluster developing a system that utilizes SMS messaging to determine Uganda’s national milk supply

Uganda has a burgeoning film industry, and I met with the Director of Uganda’s Investment Authority and the Program Director of Maisha Film Labs in efforts to gain a better grasp of Uganda’s film space.

Maisha Film Labs trains filmmakers through laboratory training sessions in partnership with the likes of Columbia University, Goteburg Film Fund, and the Danish Film Festival. After the labs, filmmakers produce four short films, some of which have appeared in renowned film festivals. Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair founded the organization in 2004, and it hasn’t looked back since.

The Ugandan government is establishing the environment for filmmakers to be successful through the creation of intellectual property laws, and the capacity building of officials responsible for enforcing such laws.

Yesterday, I and three friends had a terrific dinner with Derreck Kayongo’s parents. Derreck works at Care International and is Chariman of the Global Soap Project (, an Atlanta-based organization that reprocesses used soap from US hotels. His father told us how Derreck, at a young age, would watch him make soap. A lot of people are grateful that he was paying attention.

I have stayed with a most gracious family, the Kajjubis, who has given me an eye into people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. They lead a church in a struggling suburb of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. They have a vision to impact the lives of the community spiritually and economically. I have learned so much from this family in the past week. We have had incredible fellowship every day – praying, building business plans, playing soccer with the local boys. I am most grateful to my friend for inviting me to join him in visiting close friends.

Today, we leave for Bugiri, a rural city east of Kampala. Agriculture is one of Uganda’s leading economic opportunity areas, and I am eager to spend time with farmers working the land in that part of the country. I will be back in Kampala next Wednesday, and I look forward to updating you at the end of next week.

No. 10: Good Governance Still Africa’s Achilles Heel

None of the three options are sustainabl­e for the continent and I align with your critiques. A consistent stance on governance is the best policy move for the internatio­nal community to take in engaging African countries. For example, the World Justice Project is working to bring a consistent definition to the rule of law around the world. The index applies the same metrics to Liberia as it does to the US. That is very powerful, and I believe that policy shapers leveraging uniform standards to shape their engagement with countries goes a long way in applying pressure for good governance­. On that foundation­, the internatio­nal community can say to a Gbagbo, “I just submitted myself to the same process you went through. I lost and we know that you did too. Step down.”
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

No. 9: Presidential Stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire

Things are not looking good in Cote d’Ivoire. “We do not need the international community.” The desire for power is crippling.

No. 8: Wal-Mart Makes Moves on African Continent

Wal-Mart makes big offer for largest retailer on African continent. SA Labor unions not happy.