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Southern African Countries Embark on Ambitious Power Project


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Zizabona will connect 5 African countries

The much-touted and ambitious N$1.8-billion power interconnector project for southern Africa, dubbed the ‘Zizabona’, may be officially unveiled at the investor round-table meeting currently underway in Swakopmund, Namibia this week.

Representatives of the various countries were expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding yesterday afternoon unveiling the project officially. Once it sees the light of day the project will add a new western leg to north-south transmission links between Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

Energy Ministers from the four Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are also expected to sign agreements supporting the construction of a power line running from Zambia, through Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to reinforce the SAPP power grid.

This was one among the key issues that were highlighted during the project’s roundtable meeting that kicked off yesterday in Swakopmund. Representatives from various financial institutions and highly ranked officials representing various power utilities of member countries expressed enthusiasm and commitment towards the envisaged project, as it will increase electricity trade among the four participating utilities.

The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), Norway and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) are some of the key sponsors of the project.

However the four participating countries should fork out at least 30 percent of the capital upfront. Optimistic reigns among delegated that the project will kick-start in January 2014 and be completed during the course of 2016.

The project is ranked as a Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) priority project and a flagship African Union regional integration initiative. Zizabona will provide an alternative power transmission route and help decongest the existing central transmission corridor that currently passes through Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, the Deputy Executive Secretary of SADC, Joao Caholo said that electrical transmission infrastructure is a critical factor for sustainable and viable electricity trade in the region.

“The provision of adequate transmission links shall underpin effective implementation of the SAPP, thereby strengthening regional power trade. Unfortunately the transmission challenge is being overshadowed by inadequate generation capacity,” he noted.

According to the CEO of Norconsult, Tore Horvei, the stake holders are eager and committed to get the project off the ground, saying that this power linkage will be manageable, economical and reliable in terms of providing affordable electricity to the four countries.

He said that power utilities of the four countries already committed themselves in 2009 to the project. According to him the project’s first phase wheeling capacity will be 300 MW, but there is potential to double the capacity to 600 MW at a later stage.

About 91 kilometres of 330-kV line between the Hwange substation in Zimbabwe and a proposed switching station near the Victoria Falls town, in Zimbabwe, will have to be erected. A further 14 kilometre 330-kV line would then be build from the switching station to the Zambia/Zimbabwe border.

Simultaneously, the Zambian authorities would undertake the construction of a 14 kilometre 330-kV line from a proposed Livingstone switching station to the Zimbabwe/Zambia border, as well as reroute the existing Muzuma Victoria Falls power station’s 220 kV line into and out of the proposed Livingstone sub-station.

The second phase of the project would involve the construction of more transmission lines between Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. Each power utility will finance parts of the project that fall within its national boundaries. The Zizabona project will also make it possible for NamPower to import power directly from Hwange in Zimbabwe.

The project is ranked as a Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) priority project and a flagship African Union regional integration initiative.

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