The Congo Research Group (GEC), a non-profit think tank focused on studying the causes and effects of violence on the Congolese people, and Phuzumoya Consulting, a Cape Town-based consulting firm, recently published a report that criticizes South Africa’s support for the Inga III hydroelectric project in the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With a planned capacity of 11,000 megawatts, the Inga III project is part of Grand Inga, a series of dams designed to generate up to 40,000 megawatts. The dam is being built in conjunction with a Chinese construction consortium, Three Gorges Corporation. The Spanish firm Actividades de Construccion y Servicios exited the project in mid-January.
The report argues that South Africa’s support for Inga III means it will be buying electricity produced by the dam at a higher rate than if it developed more local energy production, all the while contributing to negative environmental impacts and disrupting communities near the dam. On an official level, Inga III remains a high priority for South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, who cited it as one of four high-priority transnational infrastructure projects during a meeting of the heads of the state of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, held in conjunction with this year’s African Union summit.
DRC president Félix Tshishekedi has also thrown his weight behind the mega-dam. Currently, he is working with the African Union to organize a summit in the capital Kinshasa to mobilize regional support for Inga III. According to the Kenyan press, the summit will be attended by South Africa, Angola, the Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.
Why It Matters
About 77 percent of South Africa’s primary energy needs are provided by coal, an inefficient and environmentally destructive method for producing electricity. The writers of the report say that the project will be of little benefit to South Africa, but the state-owned energy company Eskom has struggled to provide steady power to South Africans. Electricity provided by the Inga III project would alleviate some of the burden on Eskom’s infrastructure and bolster regional development.