22 July 2008 – Another round of talks on the construction and implementation of the Inga projects has kicked off in Kinshasa, DRC this week.
Ministers from the Great Lakes region and other African countries will meet with partners of the Grand Inga project and discuss issues facing the project, which is estimated to cost US$80 billion.
The meeting will bring together partners from the World Ban, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, NEPAD, JIFP and others who have pledged to provide finance for the project.
"The Grand Inga Talks will be a breakthrough to Africa’s power problems," said Ambassador Erastus Mwencha of the African Union (AU) Commission, in a statement.
This meeting is a follow up from a meeting which took place in London in April under the auspices of the World Energy Council (WEC). It is estimated that the Grand Inga project will generate twice as much as the Three Gorges project in China.
The Grand Inga Dam will be located on the Congo River close to the Inga 1 and Inga 2 sites.The project will boast over 50 turbines.
Says Gerald Doucet, WEC secretary general, Grand Inga is the greatest sustainable development project.
"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."
Environmentalists have warned that the project will most likely not benefit people at ‘grassroots’ level, citing the current situation, where of people living close to Inga I and II, only 6% have access to electricity. However, electricity from the current sites are being exported as far afield as Angola.
According to a UN source, the project can only be deemed a success if 70% of the people in Africa access electricity.
"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 International Rivers official, a watchdog group opposed to the Grand Inga project.
They have predicted the project will fail, that funds will be embezzled by corrupt officials and that Africa’s lack of technological expertise will hamper the project. Others, less pessimistic, have predicted the project will be the beginning of a new era in Africa.