Flying over Africa during the day is just spectacular. If you fly from East to North Africa, watching the Nile River is absolutely impressive (6,853 Km. long!). Unfortunately, I haven’t had an opportunity to see the Congo River. I hope to see this one at a close distance and not from the sky: its flow of 42,000m3/s is second only to the Amazon. Can you imagine its power? …And its potential as a source of hydroelectric power? No wonder this is part of Africa’s Agenda 2063!
The Grand Inga dam mega-project is intended to turn that potential into reality: the goal is to generate 40,000 megawatts (MW) at the end of the project’s seven phases. Enough to light up half of Africa.
To give you an idea of the power deficit, these are the countries with the greatest shortfalls (source: ISI Consultants)
The first two phases of the project were completed more than 30 years ago. With total potential generation capacity of 2,132 MW, in 2013 they were operating at 40% of capacity, according to Peter Fabricius from the Institute of Secutiry Studies. In 2014, the World Bank and the African Development Bank committed US$ 106 million (73 and 33) to get Inga 3 started. This would add 4,800 MW of generation capacity.
Critics of the project claim that very little of the electricity generated will go to the local communities, and the environmental cost can be substantial. Not to talk about the potential for corruption around the tendering process.
Construction was planned to start in 2016. But the World Bank suspended project financing last summer putting the project as risk as other potential financers are likely to flee. The reasons? Concerns that environmental and social standards would be overlooked.
There’s an urgent need to bring power to the citizens, and to make the infrastructure reliable for companies. But the signal that the World Bank is sending to politicians goes in the right direction. If the 2063 Agenda is to bring a positive transformation to Africa, environmental and social impacts need to be taken into account when implementing its projects. Do you agree?