Lamu Island, Coastal Kenya Lamu Island, Coastal Kenya Photo by DJ Bwakali

Step Aside James Bond, Meet Green Bonds

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Before I say anything else, let me just look into your eyes and tell you this, “green bonds can bring taps to your villages or bring water back into your taps. Stay with me for ten minutes as I explain to you how.”

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A black Alfa Romeo whizzes and snakes its way through the steep hills of Siena Italy. The man at its wheel has an intense, yet calm look on his tanned face. Despite an avalanche of bullets from the bad guys who are racing after him and sticking on his trail like stubborn ticks, his dark sports car keeps speeding on like a Formula One racing machine. As it hurtles through the lush mountainside, its driver remains calm, knowing that whatever happens to be around one of those rugged corners, he will vanquish it because he is Bond. James Bond.

Alfa RomeoAlfa Romeo. I watched James Bond’s Quantum Solace movie on Good Friday. March 30th2018. It was the second time I was watching it but it felt like the first time since it was so exhilarating. Immediately after it ended, I grabbed a coke from the fridge and was about to down it when I remembered that if my friend Trish (Patricia) was to be believed, then that can of coke contained like a million calories that wouldn’t be doing any favours to my already hefty mid-section. So instead of the coke, I settled on a tea cocktail that I had recently invented (or so I thought) – black tea, freshly ground green cardamom and half a lemon. It tastes heavenly and I highly recommend it.

As I sipped this divine cocktail, I strolled down memory lane and saw a tall, chubby eighteen-year-old who had just finished devouring an entire tilapia fish and massive chunk of ugali. His friend and mentor, just a year older, had also placed aside his plate after completing a similar gigantic meal. Seated opposite the teenagers was the eighteen-year old’s father. His stern stare seemed out of place on his gentle face. He too, had completed chomping his own tilapia. Moments later, he sauntered to the toilet a few metres away just next to the main door.

“Will any of you use the toilet or should I flush?” he asked when he was done with his business.

The two teens both raised their hands, thanks to the massive tilapias that were now racing through their digestive system. The eighteen-year old was my friend Harold and the nineteen-year-old was me. That was way back in the days when George Bush was still President and Liberia’s George Weah was not yet President. Nairobi’s Highrise Estate where Harold and his family stayed, had a chronic water shortage hence the need to flush water sparingly and strategically.

umoja estateNairobi's Umoja EstateOur home in Umoja estate in the Eastlands part of the Capital City didn’t have such severe water shortage. But now it does, just like most of Nairobi. As for most parts of rural Kenya, piped water remains a pipe dream for more than half the people. That’s why 18 million Kenyans still have no access to piped water and sanitation services. Indeed, Kenya still has a very long way to go in improving both water availability and water accessibility.

But there is hope. It is possible for this East African country to shed off its water-scarce status by tapping more into the water in its belly and distributing that water more effectively to its 48 million people. Kenya can do this through Bonds. Green Bonds. Just like James Bond, Green Bonds can ensure that good triumphs over evil. Here’s how they can do it:

Kenya is currently reaching out to green bonds to finance water and sewage projects across the country. Plans are underway for issuing the first 15-year bond of about 2 billion Kenya Shillings ($20 million) later in 2018, with the eventual goal of raising $100 million annually. This will go a long way in filling the $400 million funding deficit in Kenya’s National Water Master Plan. It is not yet clear whether these will be exclusively Government Bonds, Corporate Bonds or a combination of both. But just the fact that the country is looking towards Bonds as a way of digging itself out of its water woes is a giant step in the right direction.

Green Bonds present a pathway for capital to stride into a land of green opportunities. This is the pathway that $20 million will follow as it seeks to create new water pipes, unclog existing ones and ensure that millions more Kenyans can access water regularly. Thanks to Green Bonds, some of the 117 water utilities that manage piped water in the country will be able to distribute water to millions more Kenyans regularly and reliably. If that happens, Green Bonds will have dealt a knockout blow on Kenya’s water scarcity and inaccessibility.

Despite his bravado and heroism, James Bond can never do that.

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