11 January 2013

Liberia to Benefit Chinese $500 Million Power Deal With Cote d'Ivoire

Photo: Boakai M.Fofana/allAfrica.com
A damaged power plant of the Liberian Electricity Corporation.

Liberia is among West African countries expected to benefit from the U$500 million low-interest loan from China's Export-Import Bank to finance the construction of a 275-megawatt hydropower station near the western town of Soubre.

Technicians from Cote d'Ivoire have been to Maryland County for an assessment of the project that will also see Guinea and Sierra Leone benefiting from the hydropower station initiative.

Liberia is investing heavily in major infrastructure projects in the wake of many years of political turmoil and is pushing to increase energy production by 150 MW per year over the next decade.

"This is a $500 million loan over 20 years with an (interest) rate of 2 percent and a grace period of nine years,"

Zhang Guoqing, China's ambassador in Abidjan, said at the signing of the accord.

"This is the largest loan agreed with Ivory Coast in over 30 years," he said.

Construction by Chinese state-owned hydropower-engineering firm Sinohydro is due to begin in February and and completed in 56 months. Upon completion, the dam will be the country's largest

hydropower station.

"The Soubre project ... will allow us to boost Ivory Coast's hydroelectric capacity, balance our energy mix and confront at a low cost the rising growth in domestic consumption," Mines and Energy Minster Adama Toungara said.

He said the

government hoped to launch a feasibility study for a second dam of the same size on the Louga River before the end of the year.

Unlike many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Cote d'Ivoire has an enviably reliable power supply and exports electricity to neighbours Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Mali.

Consumption at home and abroad is growing rapidly, however, and investment in the sector was hobbled during a 10-year political crisis that divided the world's top cocoa grower into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south.

A brief 2011 war ended the impasse and reunited the country. The government has since promised to spend $500 million to renew the utility sector and is seeking additional financing.

Plans include construction of a 330-megawatt thermal power station near the commercial capital, Abidjan.

In November, Ivory Coast-based Foxtrot International announced plans to invest nearly $1 billion over five years to boost production of offshore gas to supply the country's thermal power stations.

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