Not many Nairobi-based readers have probably heard of Zambian economist Ephraim Kambwili until last week, when he rose to prominence after one of Kenya’s major newspapers broke an explosive story regarding his company, EDF Concession Company. The story said he paid nearly $50 million in bribes over nearly two decades to gain the rights to the twin gas-fired power plants known as LAPSSET and Zanzibar Power Towers, which are due to be built in the early 2020s. Kambwili is the executive director of EDF Concession Company, and his media blitz, replete with leaks to local media and foreign outlets, is designed to put pressure on the government of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Once the story of the bribes hit the Kenyan media on Jan. 4, Kambwili also made noises about setting up another company to construct the power plants in Tanzania. Tanzania, however, is upset that Uganda, which has repeatedly courted Tanzania in a seemingly interminable rivalry for power generation projects, has also asked for the rights to twin LAPSSET. Kenyan power producer KenGen, it said, had a 50 percent stake in the two plants, which are based on joint-development and joint-investment.
Western multinationals also have sent representatives to take part in tenders to bid for construction contracts for the LAPSSET power plant. If Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya can’t all agree on who gets to build the twin power plants, it could kill off plans for the multi-billion dollar project.