The World Bank has approved a $100 million grant for power-starved Burundi to help fund two hydropower projects that will almost double the east African country's tiny electricity output, the bank and government said.
Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Burundi suffers a chronic power deficit and regular power outages that peg back economic growth. It even has to import energy from Democratic Republic of Congo whose own infrastructure is falling apart.
Two dams will produce a combined 48 megawatts (MW) of power, tiny compared to the massive 6,000 MW dam nearby Ethiopia is building but much needed in a country where just 4 percent of the 10 million population has access to electricity.
"An international tender for the construction of the two dams will be launched between October and November this year, work will start in 2015 and we expect construction to be completed by June 2019," Nolasque Ndayihaye, energy director at Burundi's Energy and Mines Ministry, told Reuters.
Electricity demand is growing by 13 percent annually in Burundi, whose economy relies heavily on coffee exports. It draws 14 MW from Congo's national grid but each day faces a deficit of 20-25 MW during peak hours, Ndayihaye said.
Other donors funding the $270 million project include the African Development Bank and European Union.
(Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Editing by Richard Lough and Pravin Char)