Karuma To Boost Uganda’s Industrialization

by Christopher Kiiza
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Uganda is on the move to boost its industrialization agenda as the country’s biggest hydro power plant, Karuma nears completion.

Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja inspected the plant’s progress over the weekend on a directive from President Museveni who was concerned by the delays in completing the power plant.

The construction of Karuma hydropower dam commenced in December 2013, and was initially set to be commissioned in December 2019, but missed the target due to defects that had been identified, which, if not addressed, could adversely affect the safety, reliability and durability of the plant.

“The president is directing me to coordinate all these efforts to ensure that all the remaining issues concerning these important projects are all solved,” Nabanja said while inspecting the plant in Kiryandogo District over the weekend.

Once fully commissioned, Karuma will add 600MW to the country’s power grid which the government is eyeing to boost the country’s industrialization growth.

“President directed me that we no longer have to export raw materials from this country. And that means, we have to industrialize, and that means we need electricity, Nabbanja said.

Museveni has on several occasions been vocal about Uganda’s exports which are dominated by raw materials rather than processed or finished products.

The president has always insisted that the country must walk away from being a raw material dominated economy to a value addition and processed materials exporting country to accelerate economic growth.

“Coffee is a good example; 99% of our coffee is exported as unprocessed coffee. A raw material for cleverer people. We who don’t see far, we sell our raw material to cleverer people to earn big money out of our sweat. With unprocessed coffee, we get $2.5 per kilogram. With the same coffee processed, a kilogram will give us $40 increasing in value by a factor of 15. If this logic of value addition is extended across the entire spectrum of our raw materials, our economy would expand by at least a factor of 10. It would expand from $55 billion to $550 billion in the short term,” Museveni recently said.

He has severally said that this is possible because the country now generates more power than it consumes.

DELAYS IN COMPLETION

Karuma hydro power plant has suffered a number of setbacks.


The construction of Karuma hydropower dam commenced in December 2013, and was initially set to be commissioned in December 2019, but missed the target due to defects that had been identified, which, if not addressed, could adversely affect the safety, reliability and durability of the plant.

This prompted for an extension of 12 months that the contractor again failed to meet.

Government yet again pushed the completion of the 600MW dam by 12 months to June 2023, which was also extended to later this year.


The Karuma Hydroelectric Power Station, once completed, will boost Uganda’s electricity generation capacity to 1,946 megawatts of electricity.

The Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) said that Karuma hydro power plant is 99% ready with three turbines ready for work. One is being used to generate power for Lira while the other two will generate power to Kawanda power station. These have however faced challenges as unscrupulous people vandalized the electric poles that were put in place to transmit the power generated.

Nabbanja said that given the heavy government investment in the sector, any suspect arrested for vandalizing electricity equipment will be charged under the anti-terrorism law.

Currently, Uganda has an installed capacity of 1,360 megawatts, contributed by various power stations including; Bujagali power station generating 250 megawatts, Kiira – 200 megawatts, Isimba – 183 megawatts among others.


Uganda’s total electricity generation capacity stands at 1,346 megawatts. This will increase to 1,946 MW if the country’s biggest power plant, Karuma (600MW) is fully commissioned.

When generation starts, the power will be generated at a cost of 5 US Cents per kWh which is higher than usual 

Uganda has already started paying back the $1.44 billion loan to China which was acquired to construct the mega hydro power dam even though the project is not yet finished.

The loan acquired by the government to build Karuma dam has two components; concessional and commercial, with a 20 and 15-year repayment respectively.

Government says that once the loan is paid off, the tariff will drop.

photo: Prime Minister Robinah Nbbanja inspecting Karuma hydro power plant over the weekend.

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