Grand Inga much more than seven dams

16 September 2014

The signing of an electricity supply treaty between the governments of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo signals that the ambitious Grand Inga project can finally get off the ground.

Hopefully, it also leads to a change in mindset within Cabinet to move away from the fixation to control virtually all electricity generation.

The treaty has been approved by Cabinet but not yet ratified by the two presidents. It commits South Africa to buy the first 2 500 MW of electricity generated by Inga 3, the third development in the Inga Grand project. It also gives South Africa the right of first refusal on electricity produced by the other Inga phases.

The Grand Inga project will be developed via public private partnerships and managed by private entities once constructed.

Very ambitious project
The Inga project captures the imagination. It is one of those massive projects that could well define future infrastructure projects on the continent. It will also increase regional integration and cooperation, which would also boost economic activity.

Plans for the Inga project have been on the cards since the 1950s. The late Mobutu Sese Seko cut the ribbons of Inga 1 and Inga 2 phases in 1972 and 1982 respectively. Unfortunately, these projects have fallen into disrepair, with only a few generators still running today.

Inga 3 is therefore critical for the overall Grand Inga project. It will be the first phase of one of the world’s biggest construction projects and will be closely watched by stakeholders around the world. In many ways, Inga 3’s success or failure will influence decisions on whether we will ever see an Inga 4 to Inga 7.

If completed, it will generate around 44 000 MW of electricity. It will be much more than seven dams generating a lot of electricity. It will be the beacon of development on the African continent and improve regional collaboration.

By Ryk van Niekerk

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