MOU signed to develop Songwe River Basin Program, including 180-MW hydropower facility

Malawi and Tanzania have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to develop the Songwe River Basin Program, which includes a 180-MW hydropower facility.

The program was prepared with the support of the African Water Facility and the NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (IPPF), both hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB). The program is expected to generate economic, social, environmental and livelihood benefits for the people of the Songwe Basin, as well as enhance food and energy security and boost economic growth on the borders between the two countries, AfDB says.

The US$829 million program involves building a multipurpose dam to impound water for a 180-MW hydro powerhouse, provide water for an irrigation scheme covering about 3,000 hectares in each country, and control floods in the densely populated lower part of the basin. Other components of the program include rural electrification, social infrastructure and institutional capacity building, AfDB says.

The program is envisaged to be developed through the use of a public-private partnership (PPP) approach. The IPPF and the African Legal Support Facility, another initiative hosted by AfDB, are exploring the funding of an adviser to the project to handle issues related to PPPs.

Other donors who participated at the signing ceremony and donor conference — held last week — are the European Investment Bank, World Bank Group and Development Bank of Southern Africa.

In May 2010, AfDB approved an African Water Facility grant of €3.549 million (US$3.973 million) to the government of Malawi and United Republic of Tanzania to finance the detailed design and implementation of the Songwe River Basin Development Programme.

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