Zambia guarantees $250m Kariba loan, as broke Zim can't

HARARE - Zambia has guaranteed a total $250 million loans jointly accessed with Zimbabwe — through the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) — from international financiers, targeted at funding refurbishment of Kariba Dam.

The two countries signed the deal — set to increase Kariba Power Station’s generation capacity — last Friday, with Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa saying Zambia had to act as guarantor due to Zimbabwe’s indebtedness.

“I just have to clarify on the following point… (that) we have entered into this deal together, but no liability shall be attached to Zimbabwe. I would like to thank my colleague, the Zambian minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda, for allowing Zambia to shoulder the liability,” Chinamasa said.

He said the multi-million dollar project was going to be implemented by ZRA, which is jointly-owned by the neighbouring countries.

The Kariba Dam, which is also managed by ZRA, feeds water to two hydro power stations generating 750 megawatts (MW) of electricity for Zimbabwe and 600MW for Zambia.

Of the $250 million, the European Union (EU) availed $100 million, the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) $75 million each, while Sweden pledged a $25 million grant.

ZRA will provide another $19,2 million, which will be used to reshape the dam’s plunge pool to limit erosion.

The refurbishment, involving the repair of cracks in the dam wall that were discovered in a series of assessments, is expected to cost nearly $300 million, and the two countries will pay the difference.

The project will also see refurbishment of the spillway gates and associated infrastructure to improve the dam’s stability and operation.

According to experts, the structural weaknesses in the dam wall may result in the collapse of the structure, threatening livelihoods of over 390 000 people who live close to the reservoir.

If it were to collapse, reconstruction would cost an estimated $5 billion.

The planned repairs are expected to run up to 10 years.

Chikwanda said the dam is an economic structure that generates hydro-power not only for Zambia but the sub-region with an installed generation capacity of 1 350MW.

Chikwanda said the Southern African Power Pool would lose an estimated 40 percent of its generation capacity, if the dam collapses.

However, Swedish ambassador to Zambia Lena Nordstrom said her government expected the two countries to meet set timelines and complete the project.

World Bank country director for Zambia, Kundhavi Kadiresan, said the bank would continue to foster collaboration and adherence to the highest international standards for the Kariba Dam project.

AfBD resident representative for Zimbabwe, Mateus Magala, also pledged a continued support to projects aimed at uplifting the people from poverty and safeguarding livelihoods.

Magala said AfBD was looking into assisting in the Batoka Hydro Power Project.

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