Japan gives Uganda $125m credit for Karuma power evacuation lines

The Japanese government overseas development agency, JICA, has offered the Ugandan government Shs460b ($125m) loan for construction of the Kampala Metropolitan transmission line for electricity from the yet to be completed 600-megawatt Karuma dam.

The loan was signed last week between Finance minister Matia Kasaija and JICA’s country representative Mr Fukase Yutaka and the Japanese ambassador Kazuaki Kameda.

The trio also signed an additional Shs162.9b ($44m) credit for completion of the new cable bridge in Jinja following the depreciation of the Uganda Shilling against US dollar that ate into the first Shs390b loan committed by JICA for the project.

The new cable bridge, the second of its kind in East Africa, is due for commissioning later in September. The bridge is a major link between the Northern Corridor Route and Uganda’s landlocked East African neighbours like Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Finance minister, Mr Kasaija described the two loans and a Shs98.6b ($26m) grant for renovation, equipping and staffing of referral hospitals of Arua, Gulu and Lira districts, as a “record breaking commitment by the Japanese government in a single fiscal year.” He said this brings Japan’s overall development assistance to Uganda since bilateral cooperation between the two countries was established to $1.2b.

JICA similarly in 2006 provided credit for construction of the Bujagali power evacuation lines: the 220kV Bujagali-Kawanda line, 132kV Kawanda-Mutundwe line, and 132kv Bujagali-Nalubale line.

Energy minister Irene Muloni said the loan for construction of the Kampala Metropolitan transmission line was “timely and crucial” ahead of the switch-on of the first turbines of the Karuma hydropower dam later this year.

Another hydropower dam, 183megawatts Isimba dam, is also due for commissioning later this year. The two hydropower projects cost $2 billion, which was provided by China’s EXIM Bank.

Electricity from Karuma dam is expected to be evacuated through Karuma-Kawanda (305km), Karuma-Olwiyo (60km) and Karuma-Lira (80km). Ground works along the transmission lines have been beset by compensation issues, for which government is responsible.

Ms Muloni said, “construction of three new substations and associated transmission lines coupled with upgrade of three more substations under the new project will not only help Uganda to grow demand to optimally absorb her generation but also create a strong network to deliver reliable power.”

Ambassador Kameda said the development assistance geared towards infrastructure to stimulate economic growth was in line with Japan’s commitment towards Africa as was announced at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) summit in Nairobi in 2016.

At the TICAD summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged his country’s commitment of Shs132 trillion ($30b) to support infrastructure development, healthcare expansion and education programmes in Africa.