Covid-19 deals a blow to Zambia-Zimbabwe border hydro project

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the developers of a $4 billion hydropower plant on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border have postponed the project until next year.

Pre-construction work on the Batoka Gorge project has been halted for several months, and funding is still being secured, according to Zambezi River Authority spokesman Fitzgerald Muchindu. Construction on the 2,400-megawatt facility was set to begin in 2020.

“The authority and the developer are doing everything possible to expedite the outstanding pre-construction activities to commence construction works at the earliest possible time,” Muchindu said in emailed responses to questions. “Construction activities are currently projected to commence towards the end of 2022.”

Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2019 chose General Electric Co. and Power Construction Corp. of China to build the plant on the Zambezi River. Both southern African nations struggle with electricity shortages because of poorly maintained equipment and droughts that curb output at existing hydropower facilities on the river.

In February, the two nations delayed planned upgrades to Kariba Dam, their main source of electricity.

Talks are underway with domestic pension funds in Zambia and Zimbabwe to raise capital for the project, Muchindu said.

“These discussions will be firmed upon once the optimization of the scheme, which will inform the actual projects, is completed,” he said, without providing further details.

Trade and Development Bank, a Bujumbura, Burundi-based multilateral lender, has been appointed as the lead arranger for financing on the project, he said.

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