World Bank Approves Rusumo Falls Hydropower Plant

August 6, 2013

First US$340 million project under the Great Lakes Regional Initiative

WASHINGTON, August 6, 2013 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$340 million for the Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project which aims to benefit people in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.  This project is the first operation under the World Bank Group Great Lakes Regional Initiative inaugurated by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim during his historic joint visit with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in May 2013.

The overall project cost is US$468.60 million and its eventual 80 megawatt generation capacity will boost reliable power supply to the electricity grids of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, reduce electricity costs, promote renewable power, spur job-led economic development and pave the way for more dynamic regional cooperation, peace and stability among the countries of the Nile Equatorial Lakes (NEL) sub-region in east Africa.

The World Bank financing of a total US$340 million – US$113.30 million to each of the governments of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania comes from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the  poorest.*

This landmark project will have transformational impact, bringing lower-cost energy to homes, businesses, and clinics in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania,” says Colin Bruce, Director, Strategy, Operations and Regional Integration. “By connecting grids, people and environmentally sensitive solutions, the project will help to catalyze growth and to encourage peace and stability in the sub-region.”

Lack of access to electricity is a defining constraint in the region. Only four percent of the population in Burundi has access to electricity, corresponding numbers for Rwanda and Tanzania are 13 and 15 percent respectively.  All three countries will benefit from job created by construction and installation activity associated with the power plant.  By choosing a run-of-the-river option to reduce social and environmental impacts, the participating governments have demonstrated careful and responsible decision-making. 

The Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project takes a regional approach to tackling Sub-Saharan Africa’s power crisis, providing low-cost, clean, renewable energy to people in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania,” says Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region. “The new power plant signals the Bank’s commitment to keeping the lights on across the African continent, necessary for achieving growth, ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the region.”

Contribution to Regional Integration and Excellence

While other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing high growth rates, countries of the Great Lakes sub-region have had extremely high levels of poverty and very low levels of key services such as access to electricity. Yields from agriculture also are typically quite low.  Today’s approval of the Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project is anchored in the World Bank Group’s development approach to the region pegged to increase power generation and interconnectivity to take advantage of low-cost and renewable sources of hydropower and shared infrastructure development.   The project will strengthen the capacity of the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) and its emergence as a regional center of excellence.

The project’s regional approach to infrastructure development will help to lower costs, enable joint management of the hydropower generation and transmission system, and demonstrate mutual benefits attainable by sharing of river waters as a catalyst for greater economic integration. 

The Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project provides a fresh opportunity to unlock energy potential in the Great Lakes region, while safeguarding the environment,” says Paul Baringanire, World Bank Team Leader for the project and Senior Energy Specialist.  “We look forward to speedy implementation so that the idea of sharing natural resources for mutual benefits becomes a reality and helps to build peace, stability and economic opportunity for all communities in the Great Lakes region.”

In 2011, World Bank helped to provide electricity to an additional 1.4 million people in African countries; construct and repair some 6,640 kilometers of roads; and improved water supplies for more than 8 million people.

* The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world's poorest countries by providing zero-interest financing and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people's lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's 82 poorest countries, 40 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 1.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Between 2003 and 2013, IDA provided $256 billion in financing for 3,787 projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

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