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Mystery surrounds ownership of desalination plant

Mystery surrounds ownership of the Erongo Desalination plant following recent claims by energy giant Areva that it is the sole owner of the plant.
In a statement to announce the signing of a historic water supply agreement between Areva Namibia and NamWater, Areva said it is the sole owner of the Erongo desalination plant that has been operated and maintained by AvengWater for the past three years. The announcement by Areva is in sharp contrast to widespread media reports that suggested that diversified local group, the United Africa Group bought a 50% stake in Areva’s N$1.8 billion plant forming a company known as the Erongo Desalination Company. Several newspapers in the country reported in February 2010 that UAG had bought a stake in the largest seawater desalination plant in Southern Africa for an undisclosed amount. The UAG website states that the group is one of the pre–eminent Namibian Service Providers with a presence throughout the country pursuing high growth opportunities in Hospitality, Financial Services, Property Management and Development, Asset Leasing, Security Brand Management Services, Desalination, Renewable Energy and Travel Agency Services. In addition, after an interview with the Executive Director of UAG Hidas Tilahun, the World Enterprenuership Forum wrote on its website the following: “In 2010, a significant milestone was achieved with the launch of Erongo Desalination Plant in Wlotzasbaken, along Namibia’s west coast. The desalination plant, of equal shareholding by UAG and Areva was opened mainly to supply clean water to Areva’s Trekkoje Uranium Mine. Tilahun is hopeful that Erongo Desalination Plant will be a contributor in addressing future water shortages in the country.” Areva Namibia Managing Director Hilifa Mbako said he was not aware of UAG’s interest in the plant. He said: “I have no idea [about UAG’s stake in the desalination plant] perhaps you should ask them this question.” Asked to explain media reports suggesting that UAG had bought a 50% stake in the plant in 2010, Mbako was diplomatic in his response. “I am not aware of that; they must have entered into an agreement with Areva, but that was not during my time here.” Contacted for comment about his company’s involvement in the Erongo Desalination plant, Tilahun requested the Economist to put down the questions in writing two weeks ago, but he never responded to the inquiry. This week Tilahun said he was out of the country and he could not meet this reporter’s deadline.

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