Johannesburg - South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will sign an agreement this weekend aimed at kickstarting a stalled $8bn to $10bn, 5 000 megawatt hydropower project on the Congo River, the presidency said in a statement.
The memorandum of understanding will be signed in the DRC by the two countries’ energy ministers, the statement said.
Experts consider the mammoth Inga hydropower scheme on the Congo River one of the single largest projects to help provide power as Africa strives to meet rising energy demands that has curtailed economic growth on the continent.
“President Zuma has directed that the process of negotiations for a treaty to give effect to the MoU (memorandum of understanding) must commence immediately, and be completed within the next six months.
"The proposed treaty will create an enabling environment and necessary framework for the implementation of the project, including defined milestones for the execution of the Grand Inga Project,” the presidency statement said.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) said in June the plans to develop the project may be too risky because of costs and time.
The bank has financed a study for the DRC to optimise development of the Congo River’s immense hydropower potential, and a pre-feasibility study was expected this year.
Last year, the DRC rejected a proposal by the Western Power Corridor (Westcor), a joint venture between five southern African governments and power utilities, that would have led to exports of up to 3 000 MW to South Africa and another 1 000 MW to neighbouring countries by 2015.
The DRC’s huge network of rivers has a hydropower potential of 100 000 MW, according to the government. But it produces only a fraction of that, and only 9% of the population is currently able to access electricity.