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DRC Gearing Up For The Awakening Of Its “Sleeping Giant” That Could Possibly Outdo China

by Felix Omondi

DRC Gearing Up For The Awakening Of Its “Sleeping Giant” That Could Possibly Outdo China
To most people, when you mention the name Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first thought that crosses your mind is: is a country full of Civil Unrest, war and plague. All the necessary ingredients to term this country as a country with a risky investor profile. However, the government of DRC has embarked on an ambitious project that will change how the entire planet views this sleeping giant.

DRC is home to the mighty Congo River. A river that stretches for more than 4,700Kms making it second biggest river in Africa after River Nile, and the second largest river on the planet in terms of the flow coming second to the Amazon River. At one section of the river known as the Grand Inga site, about 1.5 million cubic feet of water flows quite steadily passing a network of cataracts in every second. At this point, the river drops some 100 meters down making the biggest waterfall on the planet by volume. Now this is a tremendous kinetic energy which if harnessed well, could yield enormous amount of hydro-electric power, big enough to power half of the African continent according to experts.

Currently there are only two hydro-electric plants installed to tap on River Congo’s potential, the Inga 1 (commissioned in 1972) and the Inga 2 (commissioned a decade later). Both Inga 1 and Inga 2 are virtually dedicated to supplying electricity to the mining companies found in the South DRC’s copper belt region. Sadly there is a World Bank Report that indicates that less than 17% of DRC’s population has access to electricity, yet the planet’s potentially biggest electricity generation plant lies in their very own “back-yard”.

DRC Gearing Up For The Awakening Of Its “Sleeping Giant” That Could Possibly Outdo ChinaTo address this issue, the DRC government in a meeting held in Paris last year, announced its plan of constructing the Inga 3. The phase 1 of this project is to be constructed at the Inga Falls, and it’s due to kick off on October 2015. When the project will be fully complete and up and running, the Inga 3 will have a power output of about 4,800 MW with a price tag cost of $12 billion. South Africa has already bid to buy half of this power: currently South Africa is experiencing a higher demand for electricity compared to how much it can generate. This is largely attributed to South Africa’s aggressive quest on industrialization development.

Once DRC completes the phase 1 construction, it is planning on further 5 phases of construction to make up the “Grand Inga” Mega-project that will supply a staggering 40,000MW of electricity. This will be twice as much as what is currently being produced at the Three Gorges Dam in China, which is the current world’s biggest hydro project. Experts analysis, have it that the Grand Inga will supply more than half a billion people with renewable energy.

After the announcement in Paris, the DRC government in a separate function said, “A myth dreamed of for 40 years, Grand Inga is becoming a reality with an action plan spread over several plants which will be added in stages”. So far, the DRC government is scrutinizing the developer, and the top 3 leading consortia come from Spain, China and Korea/Canada. Where the DRC government runs into some “pickles” is when it comes to funding for the project, but already some potential funders have already been identified. They are Development Bank of Southern Africa, African Development Bank, World Bank, French Development Agency and European Investment Bank. This mega project best fits the roles of an initiative covered by Innov8tiv Magazine dubbed the Africa50 Initiative.

The construction of Inga 3 will cost $12 billion, the total cost of the entire project including the other proposed 5 phases will cost $80 billion. All stakeholders are now keeping their fingers crossed, because this will be one of the most expensive development projects to be undertaken in Africa. However if or when the project pulls through, the benefits will be gigantic with enough power production that belittles China’s current mammoth project the Three Gorges Dam. The Grand Inga will have an output of 40,000MW capable of powering half of Africa.

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