Presidents Kabila and Zuma are set to meet today to discuss a number of topics, including Grand Inga. Picture credit: SABC
Presidents Kabila and Zuma are set to meet today to discuss a number of topics, including Grand Inga.
Picture credit: SABC

In Central Africa, South African President Jacob Zuma is meeting with Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo today in Kinshasa. The two heads of state will be discussing bilateral trade and investment with that country.

The SABC reported that the DRC government is working through the ‘bureaucratic’ hurdles that are hampering development of the Grand Inga Dam, potentially the world’s largest hydropower dam.

Inga has long been considered a ‘Holy Grail’ project, which has the potential to meet a significant portion of Africa’s power demands.  Figures as large as 40MW have been used in numerous reports over the years.

According to Minister of international relations and cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the project has the potential to provide electricity for 600 million Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the challenges around the project is the “fragile security situation in the Congo’s east and expanding trade will be on the agenda when the two countries’ heads of state meet on.”

Construction phase

The Grand Inga will be constructed on the Congo river as part of an existing series of hydropower facilities.

Inga I and II have already been constructed, with plans in place for Inga III and Grand Inga in development. The Grand Inga will be “roughly twice the capacity of China’s Three Gorges Dam, and equal to the entire installed generation capacity of South Africa,” says the SABC report.

The project and supporting grid network is estimated to cost at least $80 billion, yet as pointed out by the SABC, “almost a decade down the line, the DRC’s government is yet to create a special agency and a private consortium to invest in the project.”

Slow and safe

DRC Foreign Affairs minister, Raymond Tshibanda explains this: “I think what’s critical is not to move fast, but to ensure that every step you take is on a solid ground.  We had to mobilise financing and we are talking to governments of China and South Africa and from now on things are going to take another pace.”

INGA III was expected to start generating electricity in 2021. It is however, widely expected that this deadline will be missed.

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