THE delayed construction of Batoka Gorge Power plant, a 2,400Mw hydroelectric scheme joint venture between Zambia and Zimbabwe, has cost the two countries more than $45 billion in missed economic opportunities, the World Bank has said.
Initially mooted in 1992, the project was stalled due to an impasse between the two countries over a $71 million debt accrued by Zimbabwe emanating from shared costs of the construction of Kariba Dam and associated infrastructure during the tenure of the colonial era Central African Power Corporation (CAPCO).
CAPCO was co-owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It was disbanded in 1987 and later succeeded by the Zambezi River Authority.
The World Bank’s Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) fund — which was central in facilitating resolution of the deadlock and analysing the foregone benefits associated with delayed implementation — said “the missed opportunity amounted to an estimated $7 billion in foregone electricity sales and an overall economic loss of over $45 billion”.
The project was resurrected after Zimbabwe cleared the debt in 2014 with construction work expected to commence in January next year once a financing structure has been established.
The Batoka plant is expected to take six years to complete with total costs estimated in the region of $3 billion.