Concern over stalled projects

Friday July 18 2014

The Nyabarongo Hydro-power Project. Photo/Cyril

The Nyabarongo Hydro-power Project. Photo/Cyril NDEGEYA 

By A Joint Report

Over the past decade, the government has announced massive projects which, if implemented, would turn around the economy. But the projects have either stalled or been halted. Rwanda Today set out to assess the progress of some of the ambitious projects.

Nyabarongo Hydro-power Project

One of the highly publicised and most anticipated projects, the Nyabarongo Hydro-power Project, whose construction began in 2009, was expected to add 28 megawatts of electricity to the national grid latest last year.

But the contractors are yet to deliver the plant, prompting the Minister for Infrastructure Prof Silas Lwakabamba to issue a one-month ultimatum on July 9.

Construction is being undertaken by two Indian companies – Angelique International Ltd and BHEL – while an Australian firm, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), was sub-contracted.

The $110 million project was expected to reduce Rwanda’s severe energy shortages and boost the government’s seven-year electricity plan (2011-2017) that aims to give at least 70 per cent of Rwandans access to power by 2017.

The plant in the Southern Province district of Muhanga, which would be the biggest such facility in Rwanda, is at 96 per cent of completion, meaning it has to be completed in three weeks.

“We will do whatever is possible to meet this deadline and if there are any changes in the plans they will be communicated to the minister beforehand,” said the plant engineer, Bosco Mugabo.

KivuWatt Methane Gas Project

KivuWatt, which is 100 per cent owned by ContourGlobal, a New York-based international power company, was formed in 2008 to design, develop and operate integrated methane gas extraction and production facilities and an associated power plant located on Lake Kivu in Kibuye. In 2009, it signed a 25-year concession with Rwanda and entered into a quarter-century power purchase agreement with the country’s national utility EWSA.

The project will remove and process the otherwise hazardous methane gas trapped under the lake to fuel that would generate electricity. By tapping the indigenous fuel, which is comprised of sub-surface methane dissolved in the deep waters, the project is expected to significantly lower the cost of energy.

It would also represent the first large-scale use of the gas and the extraction greatly mitigate the environmental hazards associated with a natural release of the lake gases in addition to providing environmentally friendly and sustainable power generation.

Phase I is estimated to cost $142 million and generate 25MW. That will be followed by three more phases to total 100MW.

KivuWatt has also received a lot of support from the international development community and, in addition to financing from the lending institutions, signed a political risk insurance policy with the Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency of the World Bank Group.

The project was expected to create about 300 jobs during the construction phase and enter full commercial service in 2012. It was commissioned on August 25, 2011.

But the project has also delayed due to disputes between the government and the private contractors. Following the breakdown of the talks between the stakeholders in the project in 2010, the case was referred to the International Chamber of Commerce for arbitration in the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.

The delay in the project dominated the 11th National Leadership Retreat in March with President Paul Kagame ordering the national prosecution authority to investigate why it was moving at an “unacceptably slow pace.” The government has set a new September deadline.

Bushenge Hospital

After the Nyamasheke District facility was devastated by an earthquake in 2008, the government embarked on plans to refurbish and upgrade it to a referral hospital. The then contractor, Tom Rwagasana Enterprise, failed to deliver the project by 2011 as planned.

Bushenge was among district hospitals earmarked for upgrading to provincial referral hospitals. Additional works were to be complete in 2012 but the contractor missed the deadline.

The hospital would be partly completed last year. It was also among the topics that dominated the retreat, with the head of state ordering the Ministry of Health to complete the project fast.

The ministry accused the contractor of delivering substandard work and diverting from the original agreement. Expected to be operational by September 30, the hospital will serve more than 600,000 people in Nyamasheke and Rusizi.

Karisimbi ICT Project

Touted as one of the projects that would propel Rwanda to be the ICT hub of Africa, it is difficult to establish how much of taxpayers’ money the government has sunk in it, but the expenditure is estimated to run into millions of dollars.

Experts say it could become irrelevant as the world moves further into digital and satellite broadcasting, but the proponents of the project, located atop Mount Karisimbi, insist it is still viable and will be fully operational in 2017.

Perched on the cold peak of the Virunga Mountains, the project comprises the Comesa air space control radar, climate observatory, broadcasting antenna and cable car system.

The Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) has since upgraded the 40-metre FM broadcasting tower, initially transmitting in analog, to Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial (DVB-T).
Works on the Comesa Air Space Integration Project, which involves building communications navigation surveillance or air traffic management integrated systems (CNS/ATM), are ongoing. CNS/ATM will use satellite technology to enhance safety, reliability and efficiency of air traffic and space within the Comesa region.

Construction of the $38 million cable car project is yet to begin despite earlier plans to launch it by the beginning of this year, with sources blaming the weather at Rwanda’s highest peak as a hindrance to the works.

Gahanga Sports Complex

This has been one of the highly awaited national projects. Expected to be ready by November 2016, in time to host Chan 2016 continental football championship, the project has however been put on hold.

Misunderstandings between the government and the contractor, as well as lack of funds, forced the government to halt the construction of the state-of-the-art complex. The government cited flaws in the design while the Turkish contractors, Babilax Construction, blamed the issue of funds for the delay.

Public Information Kiosks

At the end of 2008, the government launched public information kiosks in critical public to provide services by public institutions.

The bright yellow-and-blue machines – installed in government ministries and parastatals and also the airport and aimed at promoting e-governance – could give basic information online as well Internet services.

The kiosks cost the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), through Rwanda Information and Technology (Rita), more than Rwf100 million. Five years later, the majority of the kiosks have been run down or switched off and dumped, as is the case at the Ministry of Justice.

A source at RDB said that the project was poorly managed.

Biodiesel projects

Rwanda’s dream of becoming a net bio-diesel producer by 2025 has literally gone up in smoke despite success in the pilot projects.

Policy and procurement setbacks have seen the pioneers give up on plans to make bio-diesel a major national production. The Mulindi-based Scientific and Technological Research Institute (IRST), which had begun commercial production, was switched off after the Auditor-General halted the process so as to procure vital chemical reagents needed to process bio-diesel.

IRST director-general Dr Jean Baptiste Nduwayezu said the plant, which used to produce about 500 litres of bio-diesel daily, stopped production more than a year ago. It has a production capacity of 2,000 litres.

The station used to fuel more than 50 vehicles daily.