August 10, 2009 / 7:54 PM / 10 years ago

World Bank urges Congo to better energy governance

INGA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Congo must improve governance in its energy sector to attract investment and exploit its full potential, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Monday.

Speaking at the site of the Inga hydroelectric power project built some 30 years ago by late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and which the World Bank is trying to rehabilitate, Zoellick said power generation was key to boosting both social and business conditions in the vast central African nation.

“The challenge is not only production but also efficient governance and further development of the sector,” he said during a visit to the plant in western Congo on a three-country African tour.

“We know there is a tremendous amount of work to do, but we think if we can take this step we can draw in more partners for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and ultimately improve the life of the people, which is the real purpose,” he added.

Inga is operating at a fraction of its capacity following decades of mismanagement and corruption and a devastating 1998-2003 war.

World Bank experts believe that Inga could generate about 45,000 megawatts of the country’s 100,000 MW of hydropower potential, which could power the homes of some 500 million homes across Southern Africa in a grid linking Congo with Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.

Some $430 million of World Bank money is being plowed into the Inga 1 and Inga 2 power plants.

The Congolese government hopes institutions like the World Bank will support its efforts to raise funding to develop Inga. It is seeking about $2.5 billion to rehabilitate existing infrastructure, another $3 billion to increase production, and $22 billion to develop Inga III and ultimately Grand Inga, which would make it the largest generating facility in Africa.

With the state power company SNEL deep in debt, Zoellick wants to see whether the World Bank can help finance Inga’s further development either through guarantees or partnerships with the private sector.

“Electricity not only means better lives for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it also means business opportunities,” he said.

Editing by Mark John

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