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DR Congo, South Africa sign pact to implement 40,000-MW Grand Inga

LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo 11/16/11 (PennWell) -- The energy ministers of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Africa have signed a memorandum of understanding to start development of the first phase of the proposed 40,000-MW Grand Inga hydroelectric project on the DRC's Congo River.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma joined DRC President Joseph Kabila in DRC for the November 12 signing ceremony intended to spur joint action on the project.

"The MOU aims at starting the development of large-scale power generation in sub-Saharan Africa, with particular focus on hydropower resources," Zuma said. "If further seeks to realize the biggest hydropower project, which will not only benefit the people of Congo but will also benefit the entire African continent."

Zuma's office said he has directed that treaty negotiations must commence immediately and be completed in six months, creating the necessary framework for implementation of the project.

"The Grand Inga complex, falling within the Bas-Congo Strategic Development Corridor that forms part of the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, could potentially generate 40,000 MW," Zuma said. "The plant would be able to supply electricity to 500 million people on the continent. This partnership is therefore an important milestone for the two countries."

The memorandum also is to pave the way for South Africa's utility, Eskom, and DRC's utility, Societe Nationale d'Electricite, to enter into an agreement to facilitate execution of the project. A technical committee of senior officials from both countries is to facilitate finalization of the treaty.

Earlier this year, a joint venture of Aecom and Electricite de France received a US$13.4 million contract, financed by the African Development Bank, to conduct feasibility studies of Grand Inga and transmission lines to interconnect the project. The four associated transmission lines (Inga-Nigeria, Inga-Egypt, Inga-South Africa through Zambia and Inga-South Africa through Angola) would total more than 8,000 miles.

In 2010, the African Union Commission (AUC) said it planned to recruit consultants to promote public and private financing of major regional hydropower projects in Africa, focusing on the proposed 4,300-MW Inga 3 project, the first step toward Grand Inga.

The DRC recruited consultants in March to improve operation and maintenance management of the existing 350-MW Inga 1 and 1,424-MW Inga 2 projects, as well as bids for rehabilitation of two turbine-generators at Inga 2. The two plants produce a total of only 500 MW and are undergoing refurbishment.

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