13 August, 2014

Inga 3 and Beyond

by Hussein Solomon

I was first introduced to the amazing hydro-electrical potential of the Democratic Republic of the Congo almost a decade ago when a South African company brought me in as a consultant. The idea was to tap into the waters of the Inga River and bring this hydro-electrical power into energy-starved South Africa. To put matters into perspective the Grand Inga Plan aims to generate 40,0000 Mega Watts (MW) of power – enough energy its proponents argue to not only benefit southern Africa but also Sub-Saharan Africa.

Inga Dam (Photo: Alaindg)

Clearly, without reliable energy sources, prospects of large-scale industrial and agricultural projects in Africa will remain unrealized. The Inga River which is the second-largest river in the world by volume could then play a key role alleviating Africa’s energy deficit. Following years of vacillation, given the insecurity plaguing the country, there seems to be some positive forward movement. The approval by the World Bank of a US $70 million technical feasibility study is not only important in its own right but a positive signal to the private sector and individual countries to also get involved. South Africa, given its own energy woes was quick to sign an agreement with the DRC to buy much of the energy generated.

All this is quite positive but much more needs to be done. In the first instance, insecurity in the Congo needs to end and this entails not only an end to hostilities and an end to foreign interference (Rwanda comes to mind) but also better governance on the part of the Kabila regime and greater responsiveness to the needs of ordinary citizens. To put it frankly, mechanisms needs to be set in place that the economic windfall of the country’s hydro-electrical power benefits ordinary Congolese. In addition, in order to ensure private investors are attracted to this project, the issue of corruption needs to be tackled head-on. The DRC has the potential to transform itself from being the “Heart of Darkness” into a beacon of hope for the region and the continent.

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