Work on the 600 megawatt extension of Hwange Power Station will start soon, after China reaffirmed its commitment to facilitate the $1,5 billion upgrade, among several other potential areas of trade and investment cooperation with Zimbabwe.
The contract for the expansion of Hwange Power Station was awarded in October 2014 to Chinese company, Sino Hydro, but financial closure was yet to be concluded amid indications Zimbabwe’s failure to service previous Chinese debts was the stumbling block. But Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping, during a courtesy call on Energy and Power Development Minister Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo at his offices in Harare yesterday, said work on the Hwange power project would commence at the earliest date.
Ambassador Ping said his courtesy call was meant to congratulate the energy minister on his appointment into the new portfolio following the coming into power of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration in November last year.
Notably, he also said that President Mnangagwa’s first outbound visit, outside Africa, will be to the People’s Republic of China to meet President Xi Jinping, at the earliest convenient opportunity he will get. He said this comes on the heels of the near-completion of similar work on Kariba South, where Sino Hydro also won the contract to extend the 750MW plant’s generation capacity by a further 300MW. The project will cost an estimated $533 million on completion.
“As China’s ambassador to Zimbabwe my job is to work more close (with Zimbabwe) to implement the strong willingness of our two (Presidents), making sure that our cooperation goes well so as to lay a solid foundation for this friendship to grow,” he said.
He said given the long standing strong trade and investment corporation between Zimbabwe and China, the biggest investor in Zimbabwe, there had been significant tangible progress to the Kariba South Power Station expansion project, which started contributing 150MW from the plant to the national grid.
With an additional 150MW from the project expected to come on the national grid in April this year, the Chinese ambassador said he also expected the 600MW Hwange Power Station expansion project to get underway at the earliest date, which on completion will resolve Zimbabwe’s acute power deficit.
“The number 7 generator started working last month and generating 150MW to the national grid and I hope that maybe before April 2018, number 8 generator can also start producing adding another 150MW to the grid. So, the programme has been going very well.
“As for Hwange, we have also made quite some positive progress. We hope to see the construction beginning at an early date. Hwange is bigger than Kariba South expansion and will generate up to 600MW and add to the national grid upon its completion.”
The Chinese diplomat said China was also interested in facilitating investments into the area of solar energy and would help Zimbabwe exploit China’s expertise in solar technology to tap into its abundant sunshine throughout the year to generate power.
Already, three Chinese companies are involved in building solar power plants in Zimbabwe, after the State Procurement Board awarded three solar projects, each with capacity for 100MW, to China’s ZTE Corporation (Insukamini), Number 17 Metallurgical China (Munyati) and CHiNT Electric Co, which partnered local firm Intratrek Zimbabwe, on Gwanda. Further, he said China would also facilitate export of Zimbabwean made products to China, as part of its efforts to help develop the domestic economy. Already, China is the biggest destination for Zimbabwe’s tobacco exports, which earn the Southern African country over half a billion dollars annually.
Ambassador Khaya Moyo said Zimbabwe and China’s all-weather friendship dated back to the period before the former’s independence from Britain in 1980 and the cordial relations were attested by the close socio-economic and political cooperation.
This has also been affirmed by high profile reciprocal visits by leaders of both countries, the latest being a high powered delegation from China to the ruling Zanu-PF’s extraordinary congress in December last year. Ambassador Moyo said the strong cordial relations with China would be sustained and solidified for the benefit of all people from the two countries.
“It is also important to know that China is the biggest investor, actually, in (Zimbabwe). There are a number of projects across the country, which is of great benefit to the entirety of our people,” he said.
The multi-million dollar investments into Zimbabwe’s energy sector will help close the gap between limited local power generation capacity and demand. Demand for power in Zimbabwe stands at an average 1 400MW against generation capacity of 1 000MW. The Southern African country cannot produce enough to meet local demand despite the slow pace of economic growth and depressed industrial activity.
However, demand for power will increase significantly once the economy recovers in the wake of renewed confidence and investor interest due to the new dispensation, which has ushered in a pro-business and investor friendly economic environment.