The Batoka Gorge hydro-electricity project has been given priority status and will tap into the $20 billion vehicle set up by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance key infrastructure projects on the continent, the regional bank has said.
The vehicle will be unveiled during the bank’s annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, this week.
AfDB chief infrastructure economist Shem Simuyemba told NewsDay on the sidelines of a meeting that the hydro- project on the Zambezi River “is a good example of the kind of
project this fund is going to cover because the initial focus of the fund is on those projects that can generate their own cash flow, their own revenue”.
“Batoka is one of the projects that have been identified by potential financiers as one that can generate its own income because it is linked to the Southern Africa Power Pool.
“This means that if you generate power in Batoka it will feed not Zambia and Zimbabwe only, but the whole of the SAPP,” Simuyemba said.
The US$2,8 billion power project — that has been on the cards for a number of years, but could not take-off due to funding constraints — will generate 800MW each for both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The Batoka hydro-project involves the construction of a dam and a hydro-power plant on the Zambezi River.
The detailed feasibility studies, which were completed in 1993, indicated that it is economically and technically feasible to construct four 200 MW units on the Zimbabwean side.
If executed, the project would alleviate the power shortages currently prevailing in the country.
|Fast facts about the Batoka Dam:|
|Cost||US$ 2.8 billion|
|Amount of power it will generate||800 MW|
|Where it is being built||65 km downstream from Victoria Falls|
|How far would the water back up the gorge||5 km before Victoria Falls|
|Amount of power ZESA generates daily||1240MW|
The power utility, Zesa, is generating an average of 1240MW daily while imports were 160 MW on Monday.
AfDB, working alongside the African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development identified 49 infrastructure projects under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (Pida) that are key for regional integration.
Pida’s overall aim is to promote socio-economic development and poverty reduction in Africa through improved access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks and services.
Resources would be channeled in projects such as prioritized regional and continental infrastructure investment programmes in energy, transport, information and communication technologies and trans-boundary water resources.
The total cost of financing projects under Pida is $68 billion. African heads of State and governments approved Pida last year.
According to AfDB’s 10- year strategy in the period 2013-2022, infrastructure development has been classified as a priority area. The strategy says the continent invests only 4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) compared with 14% in China. It said that bridging the infrastructure gap could increase GDP growth by an estimated 2 percentage points a year.
If the Batoka Dam project goes ahead, it will mean damming of the Zambezi River some 65km downstream of the Victoria Falls. The water would back up to approximately 5 km from the Falls themselves and would not actually effect the Falls themselves but would affect the White water rafting product in the gorge downstream.
There is also some concern from environmentalists that the dam would have a negative impact on the unique ecosystem found in the Batoka gorge that includes some nesting sites of rare bird species. It is however broadly thought that the negative effect of this Dam wall would be much less than other potential projects.
By: Ndamu Sandu
Date: 30 May 2013