Chinese and Spanish developers that want to build Africa’s biggest hydropower plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed to form a single consortium in an accord the country says is a key step to realising the plan.
The $14 billion dam is part of a long-delayed project known as Grand Inga that’s eventually intended to harness as much as 40,000 megawatts of power from the Congo River. Inga III would generate 11,050 megawatts, meant primarily for South Africa, other African markets and Congo’s copper and cobalt miners.
“A crucial step has been taken toward the start of Inga III,” Bruno Kapandji, the head of Congo’s Agency for the Development and Promotion of the Grand Inga Project, or ADPI, said by email. “Activities to launch Inga III as soon as possible are being carried out with efficiency and determination, despite the consequences of Covid-19. Inga III is becoming a reality.”
At the same time, Congo “remains open to receiving other developers that have the required capacity and proven experience with similar projects,” Kapandji said.
Waiting for approval
Former President Joseph Kabila in 2018 appointed two Chinese and Spanish groups that had competed for the project as co-developers. His successor, Felix Tshisekedi, has yet to approve their proposal and it’s not clear whether they’ll be granted exclusive rights to finance technical, environmental and social studies, as well as attract lenders. Spanish building firm ACS withdrew from the project earlier this year, without providing a reason.
The new accord signed this month brings the developers together into a consortium that comprises six Chinese companies, including China Three Gorges Corp. and a unit of State Grid Corp., and AEE Power Holdings Sarl of Spain. The Chinese firms will hold 75% of the shares and AEE will have 25%.
The division of shares is “only valid in terms of the decision-making process between the two, it’s purely from an operational point of view,” Patrick Kabuya, the Inga agency’s spokesman, said by WhatsApp.
Nobody answered the phone at the offices of China Three Gorges in Beijing while emails to China Three Gorges and State Grid Corp. weren’t immediately answered. A spokesman of AEE Power Holdings declined to comment.
Tshisekedi said last year that he prefers to begin construction of an earlier, smaller version of the project with a capacity of 4,800 megawatts that could be expanded later — a plan that was endorsed by African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, who urged Congo to proceed with the project. The Chinese and Spanish groups believe the smaller plant isn’t economically viable.
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