French contractor gets US$50m for Kariba Dam rehabilitation

“It’s only the phase one to reshape the plunge pool, to repair the damages, to create a new road and to create space…which is only the first phase.”

FRENCH contracting firm Razel-Bec which recently landed a contract to rehabilitate the Kariba Dam plunge pool will be paid a whopping US$50 million for project, a company official has said.

By Taurai Mangudhla

The US$50 million is for the first phase of the US$300 million project, Razel-Bec international development vice-president Eric Thouvene told businessdigest in an interview this week. Upon completion of the plunge pool rehabilitation project, the six flood gates at the Kariba dam wall also need to be refurbished in order to be fully operational.

Currently, three out of the six gates can be used while the plunge pool continues to deepen to a point it could go below the dam wall and cause collapse. As a result, the two governments resolved to expand the spill way and avoid possible damage to the wall.

“It’s only the phase one to reshape the plunge pool, to repair the damages, to create a new road and to create space…which is only the first phase,” said Thouvene.

The contractor said his company will give room to partner local contractors from both Zambia and Zimbabwe as part of its internal policy to partner locals.

“We will make room for local contractors as always, we will try to make most of local contractors be incorporated.

It’s our policy, we have been in Africa for 70 years and we have worked in 10 countries. Expatriates are just about 5% of our labour force. Most of our people are Africans because we are here to stay,” Thouvene said, adding his team is expected to be on the ground to commence operations by end of March.

“I am based in Paris, but my team will be here in a month,” he said.

Razel-Bec is a civil engineering firm that designs, funds, produces and operates public structures at national and international level. The organisation has done work on underground structures, roads, civil engineering structures, water and environment management and earthworks. In 2012, the company had 5 400 employees and a provisional turnover of some 800 million euros.

The European Union will contribute a US$100 million grant, followed by the World Bank US$75 million, the Swedish government US$20 million.

The African Development Bank will contribute a US$39 million loan as well as a US$36 million grant.

The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) – a corporation jointly and equally owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe to derive the greatest advantages from the Zambezi river as well as manage the Kariba complex among other roles- will contribute US$19,2 million. ZRA chief executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa said the US$19,2 million had been generated from internal savings over the years into the project. ZRA reported a total income of US$27,5 million in 2015 up from US$23,1 million in 2014. Most of the revenues come from operating activities.

On behalf of the financiers World Bank country manager for Zambia Ina Ruthenberg told businessdigest financing of the project is made up of loans and grants.

She generally described them as soft loans.

“The different partners have different conditions, but on behalf of the World Bank I can say it’s got a very long tenure and low rates and is coming under (the International Development Association) IDA. The tenure is about 25 years I think, it’s a very long window and it is replenished by banks every three years,” said Ruthernberg.

IDA is the part of the World Bank that supports anti-poverty programmes in the poorest developing countries with long-term, no-interest loans.

The US$300 million will be handed over to the Zambian government which will then release it to ZRA.

EU ambassador to Zambia Alessandro Mariani said: “This is not a loan but a grant. It’s better than a loan because it doesn’t have to be repaid. The grant is financed by the EU for the rehabilitation of the plunge pool and today we have signed a contract for the plunge pool … it will give a longer life to the dam so that we continue to produce energy to power Zimbabwe, Zambia and beyond.”

Munodawafa said if the dam collapses, 3,5 million people downstream, mostly in Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania will be adversely affected.

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