Presidents Lula of Brazil and Kibaki of Kenya announced a series of agreements yesterday, which includes a commitment from Brazil to help Kenya produce biodiesel. Kenya’s expansive land has made it a target of overseas biofuel interests, but water shortages could hamper development.
President Kibaki of Kenya and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were on hand yesterday to witness the signing of six key agreements between the two countries aimed at boosting trade, investments and economic ties. As part of the announcement, Brazil, the world’s leading ethanol exporter, will help Kenya produce biodiesel and improve its agriculture sector.
President Kibaki said the two countries would cooperate in the energy sector:
Kenya is especially keen on exploiting Brazilian advances in the area of bio-diesel technology. Brazil is a world leader in this field and Kenya stands to gain as we seek ways of becoming more efficient in our management of the energy sector.
In late 2009, the Kenyan government launched a five-year policy to boost biodiesels, but faces many regulatory. According to “A Roadmap for Biofuels in Kenya” (PDF) released in 2008 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya spent $983 million, or 5.6% of gross domestic product, importing petrol and automotive diesel in 2006. If Kenya offset 10% of petrol imports and 2% of diesel imports with locally produced biofuels by 2013, it would keep a total of $71 million per year from flowing overseas (at current consumption levels, assuming an average price of $90 per barrel of oil).
Kenya has been the target of overseas biofuel interests due to the availability of cheap land. Earlier this year, the Qatari Government offered the Kenyan government aid to build a deep-water port in exchange for 40,000 hectares of land to grow food and biofuel feedstock. The interest highlights the danger of placing too much demand on Kenya’s water supplies at a time when the country is strapped by a prolonged drought.
Terming his trip as successful, President Lula for his part said Kenya had expansive land that could be used in biofuel production using technology already employed in Brazil:
I have come to discover the opportunities that exist here for instance what we can buy from Kenya and what we can sell, technological transfer and what we can do to improve the quality of air we breath by diminishing green house gas emissions.
Lula added that for Brazil, Kenya represents an important investment hub that Brazilian companies and entrepreneurs can use to seek business opportunities in the wider East African Community, a five-nation economic bloc of more than 125 million people.
Lula and Kibaki did not give more details about how Brazil will help Kenya develop biodiesel or improve its agriculture.
For several years, however, a growing number of Kenyan farmers have been increasing the amount of land they dedicate to plants known to be good sources of biofuel. The production of such fuel remains small scale in Kenya.