Zambia, Zimbabwe Rebid $5bn Batoka Gorge Hydro Project

April 2025 Set for Bids on Massive Zambezi River Plant

by Oluwatosin Racheal Alabi

In a move to address the increasing energy demands in Southern Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have announced plans to retender the Batoka Gorge hydropower project, an initiative estimated at $5 billion with a capacity of 2.4GW. This project, situated on the Zambezi River and located 54km downstream from Victoria Falls, represents a significant cross-border collaboration aimed at bolstering the region’s power supply. The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), a partnership between the two nations, is poised to accept bids by April 2025, with the anticipation of selecting a new developer by September of the same year. This development marks a pivotal step in the hydropower sector, signaling the two countries’ commitment to sustainable energy solutions.

Originally awarded to General Electric (GE) and Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China), the Batoka Gorge hydropower plant project has encountered numerous challenges, including delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and difficulties in securing financial support. The retendering decision comes in the wake of Zambian Energy Minister Peter Kapala’s announcement in June 2023, where he cited irregularities in the procurement process as the reason for withdrawing from the 2019 agreement with the initial contractors. This recalibration in the project’s direction underscores a meticulous approach to ensuring transparency and efficiency in the execution of such a substantial infrastructure project.

The Southern African region is currently grappling with a severe drought, exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern. This environmental crisis has led to skyrocketing food prices, severely impacting low-income families and prompting Zambia to declare a national disaster. In this context, the Batoka Gorge project is seen not just as a means to increase power generation but also as a critical intervention for water reserve management. Munyaradzi Munodawafa, CEO of ZRA, emphasized the strategic importance of additional hydroelectric schemes for reservoir regulation, which would enhance power generation and flood management capabilities.

Despite the declining water levels at the Kariba Dam, a key source of hydroelectric power for both Zambia and Zimbabwe, there are no plans to decommission the facility. Instead, the Batoka Gorge project is envisioned as a complementary measure to alleviate hydrological challenges at Kariba while significantly boosting the power supply capacity critical for the development needs of both nations. For the remainder of 2024, ZRA has allocated eight billion cubic meters of water to Zambian power utility Zesco and Zimbabwe Power, enabling each to generate 214MW of electricity.

This strategic move highlights the importance of regional cooperation in tackling the complex challenges of energy security and climate change. The Batoka Gorge hydropower plant not only promises to enhance the electricity generation capacity of Zambia and Zimbabwe but also serves as a testament to the potential of cross-border initiatives in driving sustainable development. As the project moves forward, it stands as a beacon of hope for a future where collaborative efforts pave the way for a more resilient and energy-secure Southern Africa.

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