ABIDJAN Jan 9 Ivory Coast's government has
agreed a $500 million low-interest loan from China's
Export-Import Bank to finance construction of a 275 megawatt
hydropower station near the western town of Soubre.
The West African nation is investing heavily in major
infrastructure projects in the wake of a 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 Ivory Coast, 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 last
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, Ivory Coast has
an enviably reliable power supply and exports electricity to
neighbours Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Mali.
It has plans to add Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to its
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
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier;
editing by Jane Baird)