SOUBRE, Ivory Coast, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast started producing power on Thursday at a 275 megawatt (MW) hydroelectric plant that will boost the country’s electricity output by more than 10 percent.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower, has emerged from a decade-long political crisis as Africa’s fastest-growing economy, but that growth has strained power supplies.
The new plant near the southwestern city of Soubre was financed by a $500 million low-interest loan from China’s Export-Import Bank and built by China’s state-owned hydropower engineering firm Sinohydro Corp.
“The Soubre dam will allow Ivory Coast to produce abundant and inexpensive electricity,” President Alassane Ouattara said at the inauguration ceremony. “We are going to continue constructing other hydroelectric plants.”
Sinohydro started construction on Thursday of another 112 MW hydro plant near Soubre, which is expected to take three years to build. The Ivorian government will fund half of the $306 million cost, with the rest coming from bilateral donors.
Unlike many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ivory Coast has a reliable power supply. It exports electricity to neighbours Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Mali, and plans to extend its grid to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone this year.
But with domestic consumption rising by about 10 percent a year, the government is under pressure to boost supply at home and aims to increase output to 4,000 MW by 2020, from the current 2,275 MW. (Reporting By Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and Susan Fenton)