Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see Rusizi I and II hydro power projects rehabilitated to operate at full capacity.
If we don't rehabilitate these infrastructures, we will be losing out because no investor would be willing to invest in Rusizi III and IV
The power plants have the capacity to produce 72 megawatts (MW).
If the plan is realised Rusizi II which is in a poor state, will produce 44 megawatts from the current 36 megawatts while Rusizi I would produce 28 MW from current 20MW.
"It is critical for the three countries to accept that we are not good managers and we should get someone to manage the project," said the Minister of Infrastructure, Albert Nsengiyumva.
He noted that the rehabilitation and privatisation of the project will pave way to the establishment of Rusizi III which will generate 147MW with each country getting equal share.
"If we don't rehabilitate these infrastructures, we will be losing out because no investor would be willing to invest in Rusizi III and IV," he said.
Rusizi II power plant is located in Bukavu, in the DRC and supplies electricity to the three regional countries.
The pact signed by the ministers in charge of energy from the three countries provides a cooperation framework towards the rehabilitation of the power plant.
"The MoU will build confidence in our development partners because it shows the commitment from the benefitting countries," said Claude Masozera, Director of Energy in the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) that brings together the three countries..
He emphasized that before they embark on the rehabilitation of the project, there must be institutional reforms aimed at better management of the power station.
"40 percent of the power used in the three countries is generated by the Rusizi hydro power plant and it should be given more attention," he asserted.
According to Emma Francoise Isumbingabo, the State Minister for Water and Energy, the power plant has the potential to transform hydro power in the three countries.
"Rusizi II contributes 14 percent of energy to the national electricity grid. We need to work together to put the plant back to its original form," she said.
She noted that the study to ascertain the amount of money to repair the power project will kick start during the first quarter of next year.
Rusizi III power plant will represent the first public-private sector energy engagement among the three countries, according to officials.
"We are currently discussing possible financing of the project, following completion of detailed technical feasibility studies," said Isumbingabo.
The overall cost of Rusizi III hydropower scheme is estimated to be Euros 500 million and already 350 million has been disbursed by different development partners, including European Investment Bank, African Development Bank and French Development Agency.
The EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund has provided Euros 2.8 million of grant funding for studies examining the economic soundness, environmental and social impact, water management and electricity links and institutional strengthening of Rusizi III.