The Democratic Republic of Congo has announced its decision to consult Chinese and Spanish bidders of the Inga 3 dam project to join forces and submit a joint bid.
The request will further delay the huge project that has been planned for around 30 years.
The government had said it would award the contract by the end of last year with an aim to launch construction this year. In the running for the deal are two consortiums, one led by the Chinese Three Gorges Corporation and another grouped under Spanish construction company ACS.
The Congolese government agency handling the project ADPI asked the two consortiums to present a single offer that would be suitable for both parties but did not set a deadline for starting to produce electricity. In September last year the agency said it wanted electricity production to start in 2021.
The Inga 3 dam project is expected to complement two ageing power stations built between 1972 and 1982 on the Inga falls of the Congo River 260km downstream from the capital Kinshasa and is projected to generate 4,800MW of power, equivalent to the output of three third-generation nuclear reactors, in a country where less than 10% of the population has access to electricity.
South Africa has signed an option to buy 2,500MW of power, with much of the rest planned for mining groups in Katanga in the south east which suffers from chronic electricity shortages.
The World Bank last July froze planned disbursements of a $73.1m grant aimed at funding technical assistance, saying the country had taken the project in a different strategic direction than had been agreed.
The political climate in the area has also proven as inductive for business ventures in the country.