Addis Ababa — The World Bank on Thursday approved $ 684 million loan grant for the Eastern Electricity Highway Project, which will connect Ethiopia's electrical grid with Kenya's allowing power trading between the two East African neighbors.
Accordingly, World Bank will fund Ethiopia $243 million and $441 million to Kenya to support the power interconnector which is believed to boost electricity and economic growth in the region.
Some 212 million people living across five countries in the region are believed to ultimately benefit out of the massive power project which according to WB, marks the first phase of a regional East Africa power integration program.
"This landmark transformational project will change the fundamentals of the power sector in East Africa. It will expand access and lower the cost of electricity supply to homes and businesses across Kenya and help to reduce thermal power emissions in Kenya, a clear benefit to the region's environment," said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region.
"Currently, only one in three Africans has access to electricity in their communities so boosting power sharing between countries is an essential step toward addressing Africa's needs." Diop added.
Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development for Africa said the Eastern Electricity Highway Project will play a significant role to alleviate poverty and boost developmental activities in Kenya, Ethiopia and at the region as a whole.
"Once built, this power line will be a symbol of Africa's determination to solve its energy crisis through cooperation in energy trade. It will be a landmark in achieving more growth and less poverty in the region."
The controversial fund grants however have raised protest by international human rights organizations and Environmental organizations.
Human Rights Watch, Friends of Lake Turkana, International Rivers, Survival International, and the Bank Information Center on Friday criticized criticized the world bank and accused it of applying the funds without proper Bank's social and environmental standards.
The groups said the World Bank has undermined the rights of indigenous peoples with its fund approval on Thursday. They further accused of ignoring the huge impacts of this "destructive dam" by failing to take appropriate assessment in breach to Bank's social and environmental policies.
Environmentalists argue that the construction of the Gibe III dam in southern Ethiopia, a power source for the transmission line, is serious human rights abuses and environmental concerns which threaten the lives of 200,000 indigenous people in Ethiopia's Omo vally and along Lake Turkana of Kenya.
Last February, Ethiopia completed a World Bank funded a 41 million dollars power transmission line that links its power grid with neighboring Sudan allowing the latter to import an initial 100MW of electricity. Ethiopia is currently exporting 35MW of electricity to Djibouti for 1.5 million dollars per month.
When Ethiopia completes the power transmission line, the country plans to sell 400 MW of hydro-power generated electricity to Kenya by 2016.
The horn of Africa country has also future plans to export power to South Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, and Yemen.