SA out-does Nam on Inga



Namibia has been outmaneuvered by South Africa on the Great Inga Dam Hydropower Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) taking over what was supposed to be a gift for Namibia’s participation in the DRC war during the 1990s.

This as NamPower begins looking for other options of sourcing electricity as the agreement with Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) comes to an end next year with slim chances of renewal.

Reports from South Africa confirm that President Jacob Zuma met with his DRC counterpart, Joseph Kabila three months ago in a bid to avert the looming power deficit expected to plunge the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) power supply into dire straits by 2016.

An agreement to build the dam at an approximate cost of up to US$10b (approximately N$80b), was concluded although the potential funder; African Development Bank, maintains that the project could be a financial detriment to the two countries without other partners.

 Minister of Mines and Energy, Isack Katali says as far as Namibia is concerned; ‘the Inga Dam Project is dead and we have not seen any new opportunities there’.

 “However, I should also not count out the possibility that if we were given the offer again, we would certainly like to study the favourability of the new conditions and if the country has enough to benefit from it, then we would definitely go for it.

We have not had any new offers on the table yet,” said Katali last week.

Namibia has not convincingly explained why it pulled out of the project.

If South Africa pushes the Inga  deal through without Namibia then the country could be looking at an even worse power deficit in the future.

Namibia imports 40MW from Zimbabwe courtesy of a loan they gave that country to refurbish the Hwange Power Station, and also gets a conciderable chunk of electricity from Escom in South Africa which is already experiencing its own woes.

With such a background of Namibia relying heavily on imported energy, failure to cash in on the Inga Dam project will keep the country as a net importer of electricity.

DRC Ambassador to Namibia, Kaboba wa Kimba says despite the new South African pact, the door is still open for Namibia.

Initially, the Inga Dam Project was mooted with a typical ‘brotherly’ agreement when DRC, Angola, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe inked a favourable agreement, which would see all the five countries pouring in equivalent contributions in return for 20% equity across the board.

However, prior to commencement of the project five years ago, the idea died prematurely because of lack of political will on pushing the project, with capacity to set alight the whole of Africa.

Namibia had bargained for equal shareholding upon its inception.

If consummated, the Inga Dam Project has the capacity to bridge the Sadc power deficit and allow for surplus to other regions as well.

While South Africa now seems to be well positioned to get a better deal from the project, Namibia which cemented its position for co-operation with the DRC in the 90s after rescuing that government from the jaws of a coup d’état, now seems poised for a raw deal.

Namibia needs about 500MW of electricity annually and depends heavily on a shared power grid with Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana through the Caprivi Interconnector, which was launched a year and half ago.

The breadth of energy that could be produced from large rivers such as the DRC’s vast river network has been estimated to be as high as 100 000MW.