The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) is battling to recover the seed capital it had invested in what was billed as Southern Africa’s biggest hydro-electric power project under the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which has since collapsed.
Named the Western Power Corridor (Westcor), the US$8 billion project was to be developed with its source at Inga River 3 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The project, under the auspices of the SAPP, was to be undertaken by five SADC countries in a bid to avert anticipated future power deficits in the region. The countries involved in the project were DRC, through its power utility of SNEL, Angola through ENE, NamPower of Namibia, Botswana Power Corporation and South Africa’s Eskom.
The power utilities at a glamorous ceremony in Gaborone formed Westcor (Pty) Ltd and contributed US$100 000 apiece as startup share capital for the establishment of the company and the funding of the project’s feasibility studies. The shareholding structure was that each utility owned 20 percent of the share capital of Westcor.
Responding to The Telegraph enquiries on why Botswana/BPC had withdrawn from the project, BPC spokesperson, Tlhomamiso Selato, said, “BPC has not withdrawn from the project but the shareholders made a resolution to dissolve the company during their meeting of March 03, 2011.”
She explained that Westcor was established as a legal entity from the shareholding utilities with the office led by a Chief Operating Officer/Executive Officer answerable to the board of directors.
In fact, an office was established in Gaborone and a COO from DRC was appointed to run the Gaborone based office.
However, Selato has not explained the reasons underlying the dissolution of the company. On what BPC was doing to recover its more than half a million Pula investment into Westcor, Selato could not provide a definite answer save to say “through the support of its company secretaries and external auditors the company is currently winding up its affairs and any information required will therefore be available through appropriate regulatory structures”.
There were fears at the project initiation that it may never take off due to the fact that most of the utility corporations were already embarking on the expansion of existing power generating projects in their own countries.
In the case of Botswana, BPC had already initiated the P1.5 billion expansion of the Morupule power project while South Africa was already engaged in the development of a number of power generating projects.
It is not clear whether the abandoning of the project is an indication that the various countries will in due course be power supply efficient to have warranted the dissolution of the company.
The Westcor project is not the only one in the region that has not taken off the ground.┬á In Botswana, the Mmamabula Energy Project is still faced with numerous glitches and it looks unlikely that it would be undertaken in the near future.