By Betniko Kayaya
An old Bemba saying has it that “munwe umo tausala inda” meaning one finger cannot deal with a louse.” This seems to be the motivating factor behind the partnership between Zambia and Zimbabwe to jointly embark on the Batoka Hydro-Electric Power Scheme aimed at mitigating the electricity shortage faced by not only the two neighbouring countries, but the region at large. The saying also re-enforces the well placed view that Zambia and Zimbabwe are ‘Siamese’ twins, not separated, but connected by the Mighty Zambezi river, as the two countries search for common solutions to their common challenges.
The two sister Republics have since jointly organised a high level international investor conference to be held from 30th to 31st March, 2017, in the Zambian tourist capital Livingstone to mobilise funds for the construction of the power project at an estimated cost of US$ 4 Billion. The project, when completed, will produce 2, 400 Mega Watts to be shared equally between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The conference to be held at David Livingstone Safari lodge overlooking the Zambezi river, is expected to attract Multilateral Development Financial Institutions (DFI’s), Bilateral Cooperating Partners and Local, Regional and Multinational Private Sector Organisations, among others – with a view to marketing the financing requirements of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Power Scheme through the Independent Power Producer Arrangement (IPPA).
This follows the 34th Session of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) Council of Ministers Meeting held recently in the Zimbabwean Victoria Falls Town, where the Council considered a report by the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Power Scheme Transaction Advisors, Ernst and Young, and mapped out a strategy on the development of the project. The Council comprises Ministers responsible for Finance and Energy from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It is projected that during the construction phase, 6,000 jobs will be created and a further 1,200 permanent green jobs during the operational phase, split equally between both countries.
“Upon completion, the project will significantly increase power exports to the regional Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) energy generation mix. It will also help address the power crisis by reducing load shedding and spurring additional investment in industrial development in the region,” said Finance Minister Hon. Felix Mutati at the recent Council of Ministers meeting in Zimbabwe.
The Zambian Finance Minister affirmed that “the model being adopted will ensure that the Batoka power project to be located 54km downstream the Victoria Falls across the Zambezi river on the international boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe, produces the cheapest power in Africa and so we are excited to get it going.”
His Zimbabwean counterpart Hon. Patrick Chinamasa added: “ Feasibility studies for the project are over and it is now time to step up resource mobilisation for the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Power Scheme.”
The Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Power Scheme construction phase is expected to commence in 2017/2018 under an arrangement between Zambezi River Authority [co-owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe] and international financiers.
The development of the project is in three phases: part one involves updating engineering feasibility studies, carrying out of environmental impact assessment studies, and addressing institutional legal aspects of the project. Phase two comprises resource mobilisation and tendering while phase three will involve financing support works related to construction and commissioning.
The proposed scheme includes a 181- metre high dam and two underground power stations located in each country with installed capacity of 1,200 Mega Watts on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides.
The Zambian Government, through the Ministries of Finance and Energy and Zambezi River Authority, has since intensified preparations for the hosting of this high profile investor conference expected to be attended by no fewer than 400 local and foreign delegates in the tourist capital Livingstone.
An inter-ministerial committee has since been established under the coordination of the Ministry of Finance to spearhead preparations for the conference. The Committee comprises representation from Cabinet Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Communication and Transport, Ministry of Works and Supply, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism and Arts, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services.
Other institutions on the inter-ministerial committee include Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA), Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), National Airports Corporation, Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA), Zambia Police, Immigration and Zambezi River Authority (ZRA).
The above structure has further been broken down into sub-committees namely Tourism and Hospitality Sub-Committee responsible for hotel and other hospitality services for the conference, Conference, Events and Protocol responsible for protocol and other conference facilities and services, Transport, Logistics and Infrastructure and Security and Immigration Sub-Committee.
Other Sub-Committees are Health and Green Issues, Investment Opportunities and Exhibitions, Finance, Budget and Procurement, Information, Communication and Publicity with the Ministry of Finance and Zambezi River Authority playing the role of Secretariat. This is largely the same structure that spearheaded preparations for Zambia’s hosting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings last year rated as one of the most successful conferences in the history of the AfDB.
“We have a huge task to prepare for the Investor conference on the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme to be hosted by Zambia in Livingstone at the end of this month. We have, therefore, called this meeting so that all the Sub-Committees understand their respective roles in preparing for this important meeting. In so doing, we will rely on the expertise and experience of most of you who were part of the preparations for the AfDB Annual Meetings hosted by Zambia last year, hence the decision to call you back to be part of the preparations for the Batoka Gorge conference,” said Ms Chasiya Kazembe who is Senior Economist (Donor Coordination), in the Ministry of Finance, when she chaired the inter-ministerial preparatory meeting last week.
And speaking when he officially launched the implementing process of the project at a media Breakfast in Lusaka on 22nd March, 2017, Zambia’s Energy Minister Hon. David Mabumba, observed that currently, electricity demand outstrips supply in Zambia and Zimbabwe and the SADC region at large, adding that this has impacted negatively on socio-economic development.
The Minister said the situation is further compounded by the fact that there are large portions of the communities that do not have access to electricity, thereby putting pressure on the environment in search of alternative energy.
“The result is deforestation, a scourge that the SADC region is battling which has contributed to land degradation, global warming and climate change,” Hon. Mabumba told the audience which included his Permanent Secretary Brig-Gen. Emelda Chola, her Finance counterpart Mukuli Chikuba, Zambezi River Authority Chief Executive Officer, representatives of financial institutions, the media and other stakeholders at Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
Hon Mabumba said it is against this background that the Council of Ministers that govern the Zambezi River Authority, made a commitment to raise funds for the Batoka power project through an investor conference slated for 30th and 31st March, 2017, in Livingstone.
“The US$4 billion required to implement this project is colossal which neither Hon. Mutati nor his Zimbabwean counterpart can raise from their respective state treasuries, hence this conference aimed at raising the funds from the private sector and other development partners both locally and internationally. And you the media are our ambassadors to help us market this project to potential financiers, said Hon. Mabumba.
He added: “The aim of the conference is to market the financing requirements for the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Power Scheme through the Independent Power Producer Arrangement (IPPA).”
Zambezi River Authority Chief Executive Officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa, in his welcome remarks at the media breakfast, said the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric project was long overdue, having been mooted in the early 1990s when the cost of implementing it stood at US$2 billion which has since doubled.
“Today, we launch the implementation process of a good, high priority project, that makes good economic sense at national, regional and continental levels – the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme,” said Mr Munodawafa.
The Author is a member of the Information and Publicity Sub-Committee of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Power Scheme Investor Conference Organising Committee