S. Korea sees potential in Zim's power sector

HARARE - South Korea wants to bring to an end Zimbabwe’s electricity agony which has seen intermittent power cuts adversely affecting key sectors of the economy.

Boasting of experience in building power stations both at home and abroad, the Asian country seeks to help Zimbabwe expand its power base.

However, there are no prospects of an immediate deal.

“Construction of power stations in your country is a necessity. A viable energy sector is what your country needs desperately right now because without energy you cannot do anything,” Korean ambassador to Zimbabwe, LEW Kwang-chul,” told the Daily News this week.

“In this sector (power and energy) Korea has a role to play because we have built a lot of power stations, and every kind of power station in other countries.

“You need to construct more power stations, either hydropower, coal fuel or gas turbine station.

“But as Korea we did not only build many power stations in our own country but we do have lots of experience building power stations overseas.

“So for us, if our companies can make a contribution they can come to your country and start building modern power stations.”

However, there are no immediate plans to engage the Koreans in the expansion of power stations.

Government is yet to sound its Korean counterparts while it continues using ad hoc measures to keep Zimbabwe powered.

“Your government is having an interest in renovating the hydropower stations.

“Our strength lies in building thermal power stations. As your industry grows I am sure you will see the need to build more power stations.

“We have lots of things to cooperate with you. As I told you, we can play a significant role. Once terms of negotiations are met appropriately from both sides, certainly we can do that.”

The Korean envoy spoke as Zimbabwe continues to experience power shortages as a result of varying factors.
Among them are the cash squeezes to import more power to augment what is currently produced and finance rehabilitation of current power stations.

Zimbabwe needs about 2 200 megawatts of electricity at peak consumption but generates less than 1 300 megawatts.

As part of an audacious bid to improve power supplies, Zimbabwe looks expectantly to the Batoka Hydro Project agreed with Zambia.

It has the potential to generate between 1 600 to 2 000 megawatts.

Currently, Zimbabwe relies heavily on Kariba and Hwange power stations whose power-generation capacities are severely restricted — putting more strain on treasury which finances import of additional supplies from the region.

Regionally, only the Hydro Cahora Basa in Mozambique is exporting power to Zimbabwe amid surging power demand in southern Africa.

Yet South Korea says its profile in building thermal power stations both at home and overseas, is enough testimony of its commitment to end power woes.

 “We accumulated a lot of experience in building, in our country, these energy producing stations. On the other hand we went abroad and there we built a lot of power stations.

“We do not only build power stations but we also run them under Independent Power Project for between 15-20 years and hand over to the host country,” said Kwang-chul.

South Korea has built power stations in the Middle East, Africa and some Asian countries such as Philippines, according to the envoy.

The Asian country, with a population of 50 million, is Asia’s fourth largest and the world’s 15th largest economy.

Its economy is export-driven, with production focusing on electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics.

Zimbabwe is among the several African countries that have benefited from the $1 billion assistance under the Korea Africa Economic Cooperation (Koafec).

Kwang-chul said Korea’s rapid economic and social development, particularly in the field of IT and agriculture holds valuable promise for Zimbabwe.

“Obviously, Korea, like China, is also a very well known industrial country.

“We do produce a lot of manufactured goods. In doing so, the natural resources are a necessity for our country.

“It’s quite natural that a many Koreans population do have a lot of interest in countries like Zimbabwe.
“We do have keen interest in the extractive industry. Agriculture in certain aspects is also a natural resource.

“Some of the Korean companies have a lot of interest in resuscitating commercial farming in your country. As far as I know some of them are already in negotiation phase with your concerned authority.

“That’s my understanding. But as you know, it takes some time to complete all these negotiation procedures.

“Certainly in the near future, some of the bigger Korean companies will make their presence in Zimbabwe.
“They are open to do business in extractive industries and commercial farming,” said the ambassador.

However, he implored the government to establish a legal and ownership system that allows commercial farmers to run their businesses with confidence.

While seeing resuscitation in agriculture, Kwang-chul observed that most farms were saddled with poor irrigation equipment despite the abundant small dams.

“You have many small dams but unfortunately because of many factors including lack of electricity you cannot take advantage of these dams even though you have water in these dams. You cannot draw it to the farms,” he said.

Most farmers have suffered bad cropping as a result of drought-induced effects, including poor rains.

Consequently, Zimbabwe has remained on the throes of cereal and grain deficits blamed on both these factors and its chaotic 2000 agrarian reforms which empowered peasants and Zanu PF politicians.

But Kwang-chul said Zimbabwe was poised to rejuvenate its agriculture by installing new measures such as technology.

Korea, said its envoy, has programmes that would open avenues to new trends in different sectors of the economy.

“In order to reach this level of course, Korea had to run a lot of public complicated economic development programmes.

“Those economic experiences are the things we want to share with Zimbabweans. We are ready to open our
expertise and know-how which we have gathered through all these complicated processes.

“From government side, we already have some programmes run through the Knowledge Sharing Programme.

“We continue our exercise to transfer our technology and expertise to the Zimbabwe people by inviting more of Zimbabwean trainees either to Korean International Aid Cooperation (Koica)  or some other programmes,” said Kwang-chul.

He said big Korean corporations were also running their own training courses, separately.

“Perhaps we can take advantage of that. I would like to see enhanced exchange of people, just ordinary people, students, tourists, visitors and others.

“Ordinary people are the backbone of that valuable cooperation for the two countries.”

In his one-and-half years in Zimbabwe, Kwang-chul observed that the transition government has made progress which he said was sufficient to lead towards national consensus in resolving socio-economic and political issues.

“My observation is that your country is moving in the right direction.

“I would want to see all these complicated procedures move on peacefully, non violent, smoothly and to see a united people.

“I want to see Zimbabwe united even though you have to run this very difficult process.

“Unity from own experience, is quite important for the country to move ahead,” said Kwang-chul.
‘Bring us on board, we will light you!’

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