Billion euro investment for Cameroon hydroelectric plant

Yaoundé (AFP) - French energy giant EDF and the World Bank are to join the government of Cameroon in funding a billion euro ($1.2 billion) hydroelectric plant, slated to cover up to one third of the west African country's electricity needs.

Natchigal hydro power company (Nhpc) has a 35-year lease to run the facility in the town of the same name, some 65 kilometres (40 miles) from the capital Yaounde, Cameroon broadcaster Crtv said.

The deal is the fruition of a framework agreement drawn up last year for the 420-megawatt plant, construction of which is due to start in October, and is expected to come on stream from 2021.

EDF is taking a 40 percent stake in the venture, with the World Bank?s International Finance Corporation and the Cameroonian government both taking 30 percent of shares in the project on the Sanaga River.

A 50-kilometre transmission line will transport energy produced onsite to the main Yaounde grid.

Valerie Levkov, EDF director of operations for Africa and the Middle East, told AFP the project was a significant step for a country subject to regular power outages and whose current installed power generation capacity is 1,292 megawatts.

Levkov added it would be able to operate uninterruptedly, giving a boost to economic development, not least by ramping up aluminium production hit by the unreliable energy supply.

Cameroon has Africa's second-largest hydroelectric generation capacity after the Democratic Republic of Congo but currently struggles to exploit that capacity efficiently.

Joel Nana Kontchou, director general of Cameroon provider Eneo Energy, estimated that the country will require a 10-year, 5.6 billion euro investment programme ultimately to lift production to 3,000 megawatts, supplying 75 percent of its 24 milion population while cutting outages by more than four fifths.

The government last year signed a 900 million euro accord with private Moroccan firm Platinum Power to add a 400 megawatt hydroelectric plant near the central city of Makay, central Cameroon.