In a groundbreaking development that marks a significant leap in Kenya’s infrastructure ambitions, the government has formally signed a Project Development Agreement (PDA) with the British construction firm GBM Consortium Limited, for the construction of Africa’s second largest dam.

This agreement marks the commencement of preparations for the construction of the High Grand Falls dam, one of the 100 mega dams identified for implementation by President William Ruto’s administration.

The PDA, inked between the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) and GBM Consortium Limited, grants the British contractor the green light to establish its base in the project area spanning Kitui and Tharaka counties.

The initial phase of the project includes critical activities such as ground mapping, geological drilling, technical and economic feasibility studies, environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA), risk assessments, and other crucial analyses to determine the project’s actual scope of work.

Michael Short, representing GBM Consortium Limited, and Charles Muasya, acting CEO of the NIA, formalised the partnership.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by the UK Trade envoy to Kenya, Theo Clarke, and top Kenyan government officials, led by Principal Secretaries Ephantus Kimotho (Irrigation) and Abubakar Hassan Abubakar (Trade and Investments).

The High Grand Falls dam, envisioned as a privately initiated project under the Public Private Partnership framework, will be constructed at the confluence of River Mutonga and River Tana, following the Seven Folks cascade project.

This colossal undertaking will boast a primary reservoir covering an expansive area exceeding 165 square kilometers.

Notably, the High Grand Falls Dam will emerge as Africa’s second-largest freshwater dam, rivaling the iconic Aswan Dam in Egypt, which lines the banks of the Nile.

This government undertaking aims to tackle a spectrum of challenges, including food security, domestic water supply, and power generation on an unprecedented scale.

NIA CEO Eng Mwasia signing an agreement with British firm. Image: courtesy.
NIA CEO Eng Muasya during the signing of an agreement with GBM officials. Image: courtesy.

Ephantus Kimotho, the PS for the State Department for Irrigation, elaborated on the multifaceted benefits of the project, pointing out that its completion, will see it hold over 5,600 million cubic meters, facilitating irrigation across approximately 400,000 acres of land while generating up to 1,000 Megawatts of hydropower.

“This is a multipurpose project with the objective of achieving clean water supply, green energy production, flood control, irrigation development, eco-tourism, aquaculture, and overall improvement of livelihoods in the region and the country,” he said.

The UK’s involvement in the PDA signing ceremony reflects the commitment of both nations to fostering environmentally sustainable development.

President Ruto and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously agreed to fast-track British investments totaling Sh500 billion to support Kenya’s leadership in addressing climate change.

These investments encompass six green projects spanning green energy, agriculture, and transport.