South Africa signs Grand Inga power import deal with Congo

KINSHASA (Reuters) - South Africa on Tuesday signed an agreement to buy over half of the power generated by the first phase of the Grand Inga hydroelectric project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Energy ministers from the two countries signed the purchase deal in Kinshasa during a visit by South African President Jacob Zuma to Congo.

"(The Grand Inga) project has the potential to change the economic prospects of the DRC, the region and the continent. I must convey how particularly pleased and excited I am by the progress taking place towards (its) realisation," Zuma said on Tuesday.

As part of the agreement, South Africa will purchase 2,500 megawatts (MW) out of a total 4,800 MW projected for the first phase of the project, Inga project coordinator Max Munga said at an energy conference earlier this month.

Construction for the first phase is set to begin in October 2015 and could take 5-6 years, he added. The entire project is projected to eventually produce 44,000 MW, dwarfing China's Three Gorges Dam.