Rwanda’s Lake Kivu is documented to harbour huge amounts of the poisonous yet useful methane gas estimated at around 55 billion cubic metres.
The naturally occurring methane gas found below the lake is just one of the resources the Rwandan government plans to exploit.
On March 29, 2019, the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) signed an agreement to provide advisory services support to the government of Rwanda for the negotiation of its deal with Symbion Power.
Powering Rwanda from Lake Kivu
The negotiation with Rwanda is for the development of a USD200 million-dollar energy plant by Lake Kivu.
The energy plant is expected to generate an additional 56 MW of electricity for Rwanda, marking a significant step in Rwanda’s efforts to increase its installed power generation capacity by 291MW to 512MW by 2024.
The plant will extract methane gas from the production area at Lake Kivu and use it to produce electricity.
The Symbion Power project is part of a larger ALSF project providing assistance to Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure (Rwanda MININFRA project), including support for the Nyabarongo II project, which will have a 43.5 MW generation capacity and will increase overall installed capacity by 11.5 per cent.
“The ALSF’s support to Rwanda, through the Rwanda MININFRA project, helps to ensure that Rwandans have access to energy, promoting sustainable development and inclusive growth. The project also ensures that the development occurs on the best possible terms for Rwanda,” said ALSF legal counsel and project task manager, Nchimunya Ndulo.
Seismic and geological surveys on the lake show that the gas could wreak havoc if the pressure of the gases in a lake exceeds the pressure of the water at a given depth.
Lake Kivu’s methane gas has remained untapped for fear over the safety of inhabitants until now.
Already, the US energy firm Contour Global-owned USD200 million KivuWatt is producing 26 MW of electricity for the local grid.
KivuWatt expects to inject another 75 MW in the next phase of its project by deploying nine additional gensets. This will bring the total capacity of electricity to over 100 MW for Rwanda.
Symbion Power is also an American company and the ALSF’s advisory services support will come in handy to ensure that the Rwandese government will not be short-changed as has been happening with many deals negotiated in Africa by international investors.
ALSF and the African Development Bank
The ALSF is an international organisation hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group.
It is dedicated to funding legal advice and technical assistance to African countries in their negotiation of complex commercial transactions, creditor litigation and other related sovereign transactions.
The ALSF also develops and proposes innovative tools for capacity building and knowledge management.
ALSF is supporting the government to develop the Uganda Refinery Project and the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline Project.
The ratification of the ALSF Treaty was driven by Uganda’s recognition of the value added by the ALSF’s interventions and by the growing need to further strengthen and improve the country’s legal capacities.
In February, ALSF completed a two-day workshop for African lawyers and government negotiators.
The training is aimed at strengthening their capacity to negotiate complex deals involving investments in key economic sectors.
After the training, better-negotiated trade deals could be the way Africa goes cutting out lopsided negotiations which favour foreign investors disadvantaging African governments.
The workshop, co-organized with the African Business Law Firms Association (ABFLA) under the African Legal Support Facility Academy, was held in Accra, Ghana.
AfDB which prides itself as Africa’s premier development finance institution is on the ground in 44 African countries.
It contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.