YAOUNDE Nov 11 Cameroon and Electricite de France have agreed to build a 400 billion CFA ($814 million) hydroelectric plant to generate 360 megawatts, and most of that power will be used to double production at a major aluminium plant, government officials said.
Work on the plant at Nachtigal Falls on the Sanaga River, around 60 km (37 miles) north-east of Yaounde, is due to start within six months when another hydropower project, Lom Pangar, is completed.
EDF will contribute 40 percent of the cost, the International Finance Corporation 34 percent and the government 26 percent.
Aluminium is an important part of Cameroon's manufacturing sector. The new power project should enable a doubling of production at the Alucam aluminium factory at Edea, a joint venture between Rio Tinto Alcan and the government, officials said.
Cameroon has two hydro plants, Edea and Song Loulou, and is expected to have more hydropower potential, but only 22 percent of its people are connected to the power system, a figure the government hopes to boost to 48 percent by 2020, according to 2009 African Development Bank figures.
"It's a very important project for our country that will allow supplementary production of electricity up to 400 megawatts," said Water Resources and Energy minister Basile Atangana Kouna at the signing on Saturday.
He referred to the potential to produce electricity above the initial 360 MW target.