July 26, 2016 / 11:47 AM / in 3 years

World Bank pulls funding for Congo's Inga-3 hydropower project

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The World Bank has suspended funding for the long-delayed Inga-3 hydroelectric project in Democratic Republic of Congo following disagreements over the “strategic direction” of the project, it said in a statement late Monday.

An ariel view of the semi-functional Inga dam on the Congo River, file. REUTERS/Marlene Rabaud

The $14 billion Inga-3 project along the Congo River will expand on two existing Inga hydroelectric dams and is part of an eight-stage Grand Inga project that would produce a record 44,000 megawatts (MW) at an estimated cost of $50-80 billion.

Proponents of the project say that it could power half of Africa, while critics say that the money would be better used supporting smaller local plants.

The World Bank had agreed to a $73.1 million grant for the project in 2014, of which 6 percent had been disbursed before the suspension.

“This follows the Government of DRC’s decision to take the project in a different strategic direction to that agreed between the World Bank and the Government in 2014,” the World Bank said, without giving further detail.

The eventual impact of the World Bank’s decision was unclear. In May, the government said it still needed to secure additional financing, though it declined to say how much. [nL5N18760P]

Bruno Kapandji, the head of the government agency overseeing Inga-3 development, said he was confident that the project would still go ahead.

“It’s nothing serious,” he said. “Inga is a private-public partnership...the process continues.”

Two rival consortiums are expected to submit their final bids to develop Inga-3 on Sunday. One is led by China Three Gorges Corporation and the other includes Spanish engineering giant Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA.

The start of construction has been repeatedly delayed by red tape and disagreements between Congo and its partners on the project.

Kapandji said in May that he expected construction to begin in June 2017 and last four to five years. Congo had originally promised South Africa power from Inga 3 by 2020.

Reporting By Aaron Ross, writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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