Democratic Republic of Congo said late on Monday that its Inga 3 hydroelectric project is not expected to begin producing power until 2024 or 2025, not 2020 or 2021 as originally planned.
The $14-billion, 4 800 MW project has struggled to attract financing and was dealt another blow last year when the World Bank said it had suspended funding after the presidency took control of the project, raising transparency concerns.
Last month, Congo asked the final bidders - one consortium led by China Three Gorges Corporation and another that includes Spain's ACS (Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA) - to submit a joint bid.
"We are working for this timing (in 2024 or 2025) now that the potential developer has been identified," Bruno Kapandji, the head of the government agency overseeing development of Inga 3, told Reuters.
The project along the Congo River will expand on two existing Inga hydroelectric dams and is part of an eight-stage Grand Inga project that would produce a record 44 000 MW at an estimated cost of $50-billion to $80-billion.
Proponents say it could one day power half of Africa but critics argue the money would be better spent supporting smaller local plants.
The project's future is also clouded by the tenuous political situation in Congo, where President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate last December.
That has fuelled growing insecurity in the perpetually unstable Central African country, including an increase in militia violence and a spate of prison breaks.
Of the project's 4 800 MW, 2 500 MW are earmarked for South Africa, 1 300 MW will support Congo's mining sector and the remaining 1 000 MW will go toward meeting domestic power demand. Only about 15% of Congo's population has electricity.