Kaleta (Guinea) (AFP) - Guinea has inaugurated a $500-million hydropower plant, in a bid to boost the power-starved national grid and halt the outflow of economic migrants from the impoverished west African nation.
The plant, which was completed in summer but only officially inaugurated late Monday, has already started to reduce frequent power cuts, boosting President Alpha Conde's campaign for re-election on October 11.
"Without electricity, Africa cannot develop," Conde said at a ceremony attended by his Congolese counterpart Denis Sassou Nguesso and Niger's leader Mahamadou Issoufou.
"With electricity, we will industrialise and we will no longer see our children dying in the waters of the Mediterranean because they despair of Africa."
Featuring three turbine generator units, the dam in the Dubreka district, north of the capital Conakry, has a volume of 23 million cubic metres with a capacity of 240 megawatts.
Its construction cost $526 million (468 million euros) and was three-quarters funded by China Exim Bank.
Despite having vast untapped mineral wealth, Guinea is one of the world's poorest nations, with a stagnating economy and high youth unemployment.
"We in Guinea have the distinction of being the wellspring of west Africa, but we have no water, no electricity. This is the Guinean paradox that should no longer continue," Conde said.
The president told dignitaries and donors attending the launch that the dam and plant would supply several neighbours including Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Senegal.
Some 2,500 young Guineans and 850 Chinese workers took three years to complete the project 12 months ahead of schedule, according to energy minister Cheick Taliby Sylla.
More than half a million migrants and refugees -- mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and Syria -- have crossed the Mediterranean since January.
More than 2,800 have died or gone missing in the crossing, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The Libyan coastguard said on Tuesday it had rescued 346 migrants, almost 100 of them women and children, found adrift on rubber dinghies off the country's coast.