South African President Jacob Zuma and his Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) counterpart Joseph Kabila will preside over the signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) relating to the so-called ‘Grand Inga’ hydropower project this weekend.
South Africa’s Presidency said in a statement that the MoU, which would be signed on November 12 by the energy ministers of the two countries, could open the way for the crafting of a formal treaty.
Such a treaty was expected to create the framework for the implementation of the much-anticipated project and would include defined project-execution milestones.
A technical committee, comprising senior officials from both countries and led by a Ministerial Commission, would oversee the finalisation of the treaty.
South Africa’s power utility Eskom and the DRC’s Société Nationale d'Électricité Société a Responsibilité Limitée National, or SNEL, would also enter into an agreement that would facilitate the execution of the project.
It was understood that the project, should it eventually proceed, would be pursued in phases, with the full Grand Inga scheme reportedly having the potential to yield as much as 40 000 MW of emission-free capacity – almost the equivalent to South Africa’s current installed base.
But the project had also been fraught with challenges and there had been little progress since it had been agreed that an entity, known as Westcor, should be tasked with developing the next Inga phase.
Westcor’s shareholders include SNEL, ENE, of Angola, NamPower, of Namibia, the Botswana Power Corporation and Eskom, as the power derived was expected to be sold into those five Southern African countries through an extensive transmission network – hence the name Westcor, which was short for Western Corridor.
In fact, Westcor was established though an earlier intergovernmental MoU signed on October 22, 2004.
The entity, which was located in Botswana, initiated various studies into the phased, project-financed development of the Inga 3 site, which was expected to be able to deliver some 5 000 MW hydropower capacity.
It was not immediately apparent what the new MoU might mean for the future of the Westcor arrangement and whether material changes were envisaged for the shareholding of the project and the way it was financed and executed.