Explained: The $80 billion Grand Inga Hydropower Project

Everyone who matters across the globe is going crazy around the thing called Grand Inga Hydropower Project which is set in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with South Africa placated at the centre of the project. What is it?

It is touted as one of the most ambitious multinational infrastructure development programme to bless the African continent.

It promises more than 44 000 MW electricity generation capacity which is about half of the African continent’s installed power capacity. Investment required for this is conservatively estimated at $80 billion with observations that actual rollout will see that figure balloon.

It is set on the Congo River, the world’s second largest river in terms of its flow of 42,000m3/s after the Amazon. It is also the second longest river in Africa (4700km) after the Nile River.

The Congo River hydropower potential is drawn from the river’s largest waterfalls in the world. At the Inga Falls, the Congo River drops 96 metres and has an average flow of 42476 m³/s.

The hydropower potential of the Congo River has been exploited since the 1970’s, Inga II and Inga II, but is yet to be maximised. Inga I was launched in the 1970’s and Inga II followed later. The two dams have installed capacity of 1775 MW. The grand plan has always been to roll out five dams but this could not occur under the politically volatile rule of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Joseph Kabila’s rule is far from perfect but there is renewed determination to realise the Grand Inga Hydropower Project. There is movement towards Inga III which promises a 4800 MW capacity.

In October 2013 South African President Jacob Zuma signed an agreement with the DRC counterpart Joseph Kabila. This placed South Africa as a 50% taker of the Inga III output.

Inga III is approaching advanced feasibility stages. On the 20th of November 2013, the African Development Bank announced approval of a $68 in financing for the multinational Inga Site Development and Electricity Access Support Project (PASEL). This brings AfDB’s total funding of the feasibility stage of the project to $90m which positions AfDB as a critical player alongside other multilateral finance institutions like the World Bank.

Inga III is positioned as the first phase of the Grand Inga Hydropower Project which has been given six phases.

Projections suggest that construction of the Inga III will begin in 2016 and first power will be produced around 2020. A multinational distribution network covering about 3000km will be needed to push power to South Africa. This brings in the biggest threat facing this project, security. The DRC continues to be plugged by a low level civil war which will challenge the laying out and securing the infrastructure needed to ship out power from Inga.

The thing that is making everyone run around is the financing of this ambitious project and pre bidding jostle for the actual jobs.

Various sources were used to compile this and mainly Wikipedia

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