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AFRICA,S ENERGY DEVELOPMENT


November 23th, 2011

World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dam to be Built in Africa

KRISTIN PALITZA

CAPE TOWN.—South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo have signed an agreement to build a major hydroelectric power project, which could bring electricity to more than half of the continent’s 900 million people. But economic analysts warn that foreign investors will prevent the grid from benefiting most of the general public.

Together with his Congolese counterpart President Joseph Kabila, South African President Jacob Zuma witnessed on Nov.12 the signing of a deal to construct the Grand Inga Dam. The dam will be built 225 kilometres southwest of the DRC capital Kinshasa, on one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the Inga Falls, where the Congo River drops almost a hundred metres and flows at an enormous speed of 43 cubic metres per second.

The Grand Inga hydropower project will have a capacity of 40,000 megawatts (MW) – more than twice the power generated by the Three Gorges Dam in China, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, and more than a third of the total electricity currently produced in Africa.

"It will enhance access to clean and efficient energy across the continent and contribute significantly towards a low carbon economy and economic development," declared Zuma in the DRC’s second-largest city Lubumbashi, where the signing took place. Zuma described the event as "a day to prove Afro-optimists right."

The Grand Inga will be the world’s largest hydropower scheme and part of a greater vision to develop a power grid across Africa that will spur the continent's industrial economic development.

Up until now, the power of the Inga Falls has been largely unused, with the two existing hydroelectric dams, Inga I and Inga II, operating at a low output of mere a 1,775 MW.

The reasons for the Ander-utilisation of the waterfall’s power has largely been money: The construction of Grand Inga – with completion pegged at 2025 – comes with a whopping price tag of 80 billion dollars. Connecting Inga to a continent-wide electricity grid will cost at least an additional 10 billion dollars. These are not sums South Africa and the DRC are able to bankroll alone.

But help is not far away: The globe’s top development financiers, World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), European Investment Bank as well as a number of private, foreign energy companies are all keen to contribute large sums to the Inga project. In return, they expect to gain vast economic benefits from this mega-project – and are likely to take away attention from the development needs of Africa’s poor majority.

"Foreign investors are contributing to the construction of the dam to get their share of large quantities of cheap power upon completion of the project," warned Institute for Democracy in Africa researcher Charlotte Johnson, who is based in South Africa. (IPS)

Jamaica Patriot

Writing about the realities faced by the oppressed people across the world
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This is an attempt to create a revolutionary movement to arrest the social decline of our country and reverse foreign domination of our economic and political life through the co-operation of our two political parties.

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