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US and Chinese to work together on Inga 3?

A report in the South China Morning Post has considered the possibility that the US government and Chinese firms could work together in financing the $12 billion Inga 3 dam.

According to the report, a Chinese consortium – Sinohydro and China Three Gorges Corp, are bidding for the project.

The report, which was picked up by Bloomberg and other media outlets, quotes Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers, a US NGO.  International Rivers was one of a group of NGO who sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Shah last month, urging Washington not to support the Inga 3 dam.

According to Bosshard, during a recent visit to China, Rajiv Shah, administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), discussed co-operation with Chinese state firms in funding the Inga project. Bosshard cited a “well-informed source”.

“USAID continues to work with a wide range of partners to determine whether an Inga dam project would be financially, environmentally, socially, and politically viable. USAID continues to work to improve access to electricity in the Democratic Republic of Congo and sub-Saharan Africa,” said a USAID spokesman when asked if Shah was negotiating partnerships with the Chinese firms to fund the dam.  Shah told reports in December 2013 that the US government was considering financing the Inga 3 dam, possibly as part of US President Barack Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative

Benoit Tshibangu Ilunga, who runs Congo law firm Tshibangu Ilunga & Partners and is involved in the dam project, told the South China Morning Post that the US government was interested in partnering with the Chinese state firms in the project.

The Inga 3 dam is part of the Grand Inga plan, an US$80 billion complex of 11 dams and six hydropower projects on the Congo River in the African nation. If the Grand Inga plan proceeds, all its dams will have a combined capacity of 40,000 MW, according to International Rivers. The project would dwarf the world’s biggest dam, China’s US$28 billion Three Gorges Dam, which has a capacity of 22,500 MW.

The Congo government has prequalified three consortiums to bid for this project, including the Chinese consortium, according to Bosshard.  The other consortia are a Spanish consortium and a partnership between SNC-Lavalin of Canada and two South Korean firms, Posco and Daewoo.

The Congo government will, according to media report, select the winning bidder by July.