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SOUBRE, Ivory Coast, March 6 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast will begin production at a 275 megawatt (MW) hydropower station next month, boosting the West African economic powerhouse's total capacity by around 10 percent, government officials said on Monday.
Water from the River Sassandra began rushing into the huge dam near the southwestern city of Soubre on Monday and the plant is due to reach full capacity within four months.
"We have finished construction of the dam ahead of our timeframe," said Amidou Traore, director of power sector management agency CI-Energies which oversees the project.
The plant was financed by a $500 million low-interest loan from China's Export-Import Bank in 2013 and construction was by China's state-owned hydropower engineering firm Sinohydro.
Ivory Coast already has six hydropower stations and four more hydropower stations are due to be built in the West African economic powerhouse as part of a national policy to reach a capacity of 4,000 MW by 2020.
Current capacity with the new Soubre dam is 2,275 MW.
Unlike many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ivory Coast has an enviably reliable power supply and exports electricity to neighbours Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Mali.
It plans to extend the grid to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone this year, Traore added, as part of a $50 million expansion project. ($1 = 624.5400 CFA francs) (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Emma Farge; editing by Susan Thomas)