Inga electric project talks on

ROUNDTABLE talks on the construction of the World’s second largest and Africa’s largest power project on the River Congo kickoff today in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa.
An aerial view of the semi-functional Inga dam on the Congo River.
An aerial view of the semi-functional Inga dam on the Congo River.

ROUNDTABLE talks on the construction of the World’s second largest and Africa’s largest power project on the River Congo kickoff today in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa.

Energy and infrastructure ministers from the Great Lakes Region and other African countries as well as African Union officials will meet partners of the Grand Inga Project set to begin in 2010. The talks are meant to brainstorm on the project estimated to cost 80bn US $ by its completion in 2022.

The meeting organized by the AU Infrastructure and Energy Commission will bring together partners from the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, NEPAD, JIFP and other partners who have pledged to finance the project that will double Africa’s current power production.

The project is a proposed solution to Africa’s power woes and will be looked upon to jumpstart industrial growth in Africa on top of providing electricity to millions of people allover Africa.

“The Grand Inga Talks will be a breakthrough to Africa’s power problems,” remarked Ambassador Erastus Mwencha of the AU Commission, in a statement availed to THE NEW TIMES.

In April this year, African leaders met the World’s largest banks and construction firms in London to plan the most powerful dam ever conceived to be constructed on the Inga falls, that will generate approximately 40,000 Megawatts of electricity and will export power to as far as Egypt and South Africa.

The amount that will be generated will be twice as much of what Three Gorges Dam in China-currently the world’s largest Dam produces. Facts about Grand Inga.

The Grand Inga Dam will be located on the Congo River and will be constructed on the World’s largest major waterfalls by volume.

The Inga Falls are estimated to drop to a length of 100 metres. The Grand Inga will be located where Inga 1 and Inga 2 dams are located. They were constructed in 1970’s and the third dam is being planned.

However the Grand Inga is expected to dwarf all of them because the feasibility study conducted shows that the dam will be standing at 150metres and will harness over 26,000 cubic metres of water a second.

The dam will boast of over 50 turbines with each producing nearly as much power as what the current hydro electric dams in Africa produce.

According to the World Energy Council Think Tank Sec. General, Gerald Doucet, the Grand Inga is the greatest sustainable development project, offering Africa a unique chance for interdependence and prosperity.

“It’s much more feasible now than ever. There is a peace settlement in Congo, and economic and technical studies have all shown it is possible.”

The Grand Inga has been in Africa’s plans since 1980 but the political upheavals in Dr Congo (formerly Zaire) kept hindering the planned development.

However environmentalists and the United Nations warn that the project might not solve Africas energy problems because the poor people at the grassroots might not benefit from it.

They cite an example where the current Inga 1 and 2 dams have been able to export power to as far as Angola and Namibia yet only 6% of the rural population access electricity.

The project will only be a success story if 70% of the people in Africa access electricity, a source from the UN notes. Environmental groups predict that only industrial countries like South Africa will benefit from the project and the poor will not benefit.

“As it stands, the project’s electricity won’t reach even a fraction of the continent’s 500 million people not yet connected to the grid. Building a distribution network that would actually light up Africa would increase the project’s cost exponentially. It would be very different if rural energy received the kind of commitment and attention now being lavished on Inga,” remarked an official from International Rivers, a watchdog group against the Grand Inga project.

They have predicted the Grand Inga to be a big flop with its funds embezzled by corrupt officials and that Africa’s technological backwardness will also deal a heavy blow to the project. Optimists though see the project as the beginning of the end of Africa’s stagnated growth and development.

Among other things, the Grand Inga is looked upon to solve the electric energy disparity in the continent that needs many small or big energy projects equivalent to Great Inga, to counter its energy shortages.

The 550 TWh produced on the continent in 2006 for example; were shared as follows; 230 TWh (42%): South Africa with 5.5% of the continent population (4500 kWh per capita), 150 TWh (27%): Five northern African nations with 16.7% of the continent population: Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya (1000 kWh per capita) 170 TWh (31%): The rest of the continent or inter-tropical Africa with 77.8% of the continent population (250 kWh per capita).