GRAND INGA DAMS IN DRC
By Paul Ndiho
At a price tag of US$80 billion, the Grand Inga dam project in the DRC is arguably one of the largest infrastructure development projects on the continent. Once completed, proponents say Inga dams will develop a power grid that will spur the Africa’s industrial economic development.
The African continent faces a huge energy deficit that has contributed to slow economic development. But with these challenge, they’re great opportunities. There is a huge potential for producing all forms of energy including hydropower, natural gas, solar, and wind energy. For example, the Grand Inga dam on the Congo River has tremendous hydropower potential to light Africa and beyond.
It’s estimated that Inga dam will produce over 40,000 MW of electricity, more than a third of the total electricity currently produced on the Continent and twice as much the power generation of Three Gorges Dam in China.
In the 1970s and 1980s, former President Mobutu Sese Seko oversaw the construction of the Inga 1 and 2 dams, but most of the electricity produced was for domestic consumption. But the Congolese government says it aims to avoid repeating past mistakes – it wants to make sure the Inga project can be a viable business. Their aim is to export this hydroelectric energy beyond its boarders.
Grand Inga foresees a massive expansion of hydroelectric generating capacity, reaching a total output of close to 50,000 MW, with transmission lines carrying electricity as far as South Africa If fully completed would be the world’s largest hydroelectric plant.
At a price tag of US$80 billion, concerns are growing that foreign companies will gain vast economic benefits from this mega-project, taking attention away from the development needs of Congolese people.
Furthermore, corruption is prevalent in the DRC and huge infrastructure like this one is prone to corruption. In 2014, the World Bank approved a US$73.1 million grant to support the technical aspect of Inga 3, but in 2016 the bank cancelled its support to the project sighting corruption. Other stake holders including the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank have expressed similar concerns.
Large dam projects like Inga are widely attacked by environmentalists for their impact on river flow, which affects habitat and concerns that more than half of the Congolese population has no access to electricity and yet the continent’s biggest infrastructure investment would all be for export and the mining industries far-away especially in the Katanga province.