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Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Project Lights Up Thousands of Households in Zambia

2024-01-23 | China Daily、Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Zambia

In Zambia, there are numerous rivers and abundant water resources, with hydropower being the country's primary source of electricity. However, due to insufficient investment in the hydropower industry and inadequate infrastructure development, the rapidly growing demand for electricity in Zambia cannot be met. Only about 25% of the urban population and approximately 3% of the rural population have stable access to electricity nationwide. The completion and operation of the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Project (KGL) on the Kafue River have fundamentally changed this situation.

Part1.Providing significant assistance in addressing Zambia's power shortage issues

The KGL is a flagship project jointly built by China and Zambia under the "Belt and Road Initiative." The hydropower station is constructed by China Energy Engineering Group Co., Ltd. (referred to as "China Energy"), with construction commencing in November 2015 and a total installed capacity of 750 megawatts. In June 2021, the first unit of the hydropower station was connected to the grid and began generating electricity. By March 2023, all five units of the hydropower station were successfully connected to the grid and in operation. Since the commissioning of all units in March 2023, the rushing water flow has continuously generated electric power, effectively alleviating Zambia's power shortage issues and contributing to local economic and social development.


The dam of the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station [Photo/China Energy]


The powerhouse of the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station [Photo/China Energy]

The KGL holds significant importance for Zambia's stable power supply and sustainable development. As of the end of November 2023, the cumulative electricity generation of the hydropower station has exceeded 79.28 billion kilowatt-hours, boosting Zambia's national power supply by approximately 38% and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.062 million tons. Zambian President Hichilema praised the Lower Kafue Gorge Hydropower Station as one of the outcomes of the longstanding and strong cooperation between Zambia and China, representing the latest evidence of the friendly relations between the two countries.

"This project has provided tremendous assistance in addressing Zambia's power shortage issues," said Hichilema. He expressed that after the commissioning of the KGL, it not only meets the domestic electricity demand but also contributes to Zambia exporting electricity to neighboring countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, thereby promoting the overall development of the Southern African region.

Part2.Let small and medium-sized enterprises no longer worry about electricity

Walking into the "Share Africa" food company located in Lusaka, the sound of machines is incessant, and workers are methodically sorting and packaging products. "In 2022, we received the government-issued 'Outstanding Small and Medium-sized Enterprise' special award. The KGL has relieved concerns about electricity for small and medium-sized enterprises like ours," said the company's general manager, Casondo.

"Share Africa" Food Company was founded in 2005, offering products such as cereals, peanut butter, cornmeal, and baby food. For a long period, the company faced power cuts or outages for 4 to 6 hours every day. "We could only operate during the stable power supply in the evening, but that meant paying workers double wages," Casondo described the past operational conditions as "living hand to mouth." He added, "Two critical production lines were damaged successively due to frequent power surges, causing a complete shutdown. The company was on the verge of closure."

Since the first unit of the KGL was connected to the grid, Zambia's power supply has become more stable, effectively promoting the development and economic recovery of the country's agriculture, industry, and mining sectors. "In early 2023, we opened two new production lines. Besides supplying local supermarkets in Zambia, our products are also exported to countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Mozambique," Casondo said. With stable power supply conditions, the company has experienced vigorous growth, not only providing more job opportunities but also becoming a major contributor to tax revenue.

The KGL plays a crucial role in the peak and frequency regulation of Zambia's power grid, significantly improving the national electricity shortage situation. "The electricity provided by the Lower Kafue Gorge Hydropower Station offers robust support for the future development of Zambia," stated Chibwe Mwewa, a director at the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO).

Part3.By further collaborating with China, Zambia will accelerate its pace of development

Zambian electrical engineer Kapanda still vividly remembers the day when all five units of the hydropower station were successfully connected to the grid. On that day, his mother called and said, "My child, we are proud of you! Your work has provided for our family, and your team has benefited the people of our country." Kapanda cherishes these words from his mother deeply in his heart.

In 2017, Kapanda underwent training to become a technical personnel for the hydropower station and participated in the installation and debugging of electrical equipment for units 4 and 5. Due to his outstanding performance, he was selected to study and further his education in China. Kapanda stated, "Through my work, my skills have improved, our family's living conditions have improved, and my children have the opportunity to attend better schools."

According to Kapanda, joining the hydropower station project has broadened his horizons, enhanced his skills, and contributed to the national development. "We are all contributing in our own way to make Zambia better," Kapanda said. "I believe that through more collaboration with China, Zambia will accelerate its pace of development."

The KGL project has created approximately 15,000 jobs locally and trained over 160 excellent foremen with construction organization and management capabilities. With the project construction as a foundation, China Energy actively fulfills its social responsibility by supporting local development in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. This includes initiatives such as building schools, digging wells for villagers, and constructing roads and bridges.


Employees of China Energy Engineering Group Co., Ltd. in Zambia attend the commissioning ceremony of Unit 5 at the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station[Photo/Xinhua News Agency]

Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, Du Xiaohui, pointed out that the Lower Kafue Gorge Hydropower Station project embodies three "sustainabilities": 

The first is sustainability of debt. KGL was born out of the friendly cooperation between China and Zambia, and the efforts of both sides to put into production creating considerable income out of power generation ensure that the construction continues without being affected by debt. On the other hand, the project also provides a model for bilateral friendly consultation to solve the debt problem.

The second is sustainability of development. Once the project is completed, KGL will increase the total installed capacity of power generation in Zambia by 38%, which will make this project the most powerful engine for the Zambian economy, help Zambia to be a net exporter of electricity, and lay a solid foundation for value-addition in Zambia’s mining, agriculture, and manufacturing.

The third is sustainability of environment. After the establishment of KGL, it is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 663,500 tons per year, which will contribute to green development of Zambia’s economy and help Zambia cope with climate change. In the context of energy crisis, it is also an important security measure for Zambia.

On November 28, 2023, a boarding school, as part of the supporting facilities of the Lower Kafue Gorge Hydropower Station project, was handed over to the local government and is set to officially open soon. Douglas Shakalima, the Minister of Education of Zambia, stated that the completion of the school will significantly increase educational opportunities for children in the surrounding areas, expressing gratitude for the substantial support from Chinese enterprises.


The boarding school at the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station [Photo/China Energy]

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The most important inspiration of KGL is that as long as we work together, the traditional friendship between China and Zambia will surely create a better life for our two peoples in the new era.




Edited and Translated by Lu Yufei