Congo, South Africa to Sign Inga Hydropower Treaty This Month

The Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa will sign a treaty this month to cooperate on a hydropower project that could eventually provide more than 44,000 megawatts of energy to the continent.

Construction of the Grand Inga project’s first phase, the 4,800-megawatt Inga 3 on the Congo River, may begin in October 2015, according to a statement given to Bloomberg News by Congo’s Energy Ministry today. The plant will start producing electricity in five years, it said.

Final feasibility studies for the $12 billion Inga 3 were presented to the two countries last week in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, according to the statement. “The studies have confirmed the commercial, financial and technical viability of the project,” Congolese Energy Minister Bruno Kapandji and South African Energy Minister Ben Martins said in the statement.

Congo currently has about 2,400 megawatts of installed capacity, the World Bank said last year. Because of mismanagement, only about half of that energy is available, it said. Only about 10 percent of the country’s 70 million people have electricity, according to the Energy Ministry. South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, has installed capacity of about 40,000 megawatts.

In the draft treaty, South Africa will take 2,500 megawatts of power from Inga 3, leaving Congo 2,300 megawatts, according to the statement. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the project in November 2011, a few weeks prior to Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s reelection.

Six Phases

Grand Inga will be built in six phases before reaching full capacity, according to separate documents given to Bloomberg today by the Energy Ministry. One megawatt is enough to supply 2,000 average European homes.

Copper miners in Congo’s copper-rich Katanga province have been purchasing power from Zambia to make up for a deficit of more than 300 megawatts. Congo is the world’s eighth-largest producer of copper, the biggest source of cobalt, which is used in rechargeable batteries, and Africa’s largest tin producer.

Congo will choose a developer from three groups of companies, the ministry has said previously. The groups are made up of China Three Gorges Corp. and Sinohydro Corp.; Posco and Daewoo Corp. of South Korea in partnership with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.; and Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA, based in Madrid, and Spain’s Eurofinsa Group have submitted a third bid.

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