November 11, 2011 / 10:04 AM / 8 years ago

S.Africa, DRC to sign Inga hydropower memorandum

A general view of Inga dam's eight massive turbines on the mighty Congo River in a file photo. REUTERS/Marlene Rabaud

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will sign an agreement this weekend aimed at kickstarting a stalled $8-$10 billion 5,000 megawatt hydro power project on the Congo River, the Presidency said in a statement.

The memorandum of understanding will be signed in the DRC by the two countries’ energy ministers, the statement said.

The mammoth Inga hydropower scheme on the Congo River is considered by experts as one of the single largest projects to help provide power as Africa strives to meet rising energy demands that has curtailed economic growth on the continent.

“President Zuma has directed that the process of negotiations for a Treaty to give effect to the MoU must commence immediately, and be completed within the next six months. The proposed Treaty will create an enabling environment and necessary framework for the implementation of the project, including defined milestones for the execution of the Grand Inga Project,” the presidency statement said.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) said in June the plans to develop the project may be too risky because of costs and time.

The bank has financed a study for the DRC to optimise development of the Congo river’s immense hydropower potential, and a pre-feasibility study was expected this year.

Last year, the DRC rejected a proposal by the Western Power Corridor (Westcor), a joint venture between five southern African governments and power utilities, that would have led to exports of up to 3,000 MW to South Africa and another 1,000 MW to neighbouring countries by 2015.

The DRC’s huge network of rivers has a hydro-power potential of 100,000 MW, according to the government. But it produces only a fraction of that, and only 9 percent of the population currently able to access electricity.

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