By Timo Shihepo recently in Niamey, Niger
The Grand Inga Dam hydroelectric project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) might get a new life after the project was discussed at the African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit in Niger last week.
The Grand Inga project, which is estimated to be able to produce about 40,000 MW – enough to power nearly half of the continent – has been mooted for over 10 years but lack of political will and possible corruption has prevented the project from reaching its full potential.
Currently, only phase one and two of the project - operational since 1972 and 1982 respectively -- are in existence. They generate nearly a combined 1,800 MW.
The Grand Inga is proposed to be constructed in six phases with Inga Three being the first one. A pact between South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola was signed with DRC about 10 years ago to develop the Inga III project and to provide transmission of its power through the western corridor.
Inga III was estimated to cost about US$14 billion but a side deal by South Africa and the DRC in 2013, which sidelined the rest of the southern African countries sent the project into disorder. The World Bank even withdrew its US$73.1 million grant towards the construction of the project because of DRC’s decision to take the project in a different strategic direction to that agreed between the World Bank and the country’s government in 2014.
Since then, the Grand Inga Dam project stalled. However, if last Sunday’s meeting at the African Union Extraordinary summit was anything to go by, the project could be back on track, even if it’s just slightly.
The meeting titled “High level panel meeting on Inga Dam”, was held in a closed session but The Southern Times is reliably informed that meeting was serious on how to revive the project as the continent needs as much energy to power the continent’s infrastructure development mission.
The Grand Inga is the world’s largest proposed hydropower scheme. It is the center piece of a grand vision to develop a continent-wide power system. An estimated US$ 80 billion, it is predicted, could be enough to develop the project, including putting up transmission lines across the continent.
AU’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Amani Abou-Zeid, did not go into details about the Grand Inga Dam project when asked about it, but said Africa needs to develop its energy resources.
“It is imperative that we develop all the energy resources into useful projects and Grand Inga is a priority because we will be needing a lot of megawatts as the continent moves into the industrialisation phase. We will consult our financial partners to realise this dream,” she said.
She added that the AU, together with other African countries, has large programmes in energy transmissions, energy efficiency as well as harmonised policies aimed at creating an energy market across the continent.
“This is done with the aim of bridging the energy deficit that we currently have,” she said.