Presidents of SA and the Democratic Republic of Congo engaging
"aggressively" on Inga hydroelectric project
Business Day, Published: 2011/05/06 07:01:03 AM
CAPE TOWN ï¿½ The presidents of SA and the Democratic Republic of Congo
were working together to accelerate the development of the Inga
hydroelectric project on the giant Congo River, Energy Minister Dipuo
Peters said yesterday.
She said she was "very optimistic" about the possibilities of the
project, telling a panel discussion on energy at the World Economic
Forum on Africa that "it is not a question of if, but when".
The two presidents were engaging "aggressively" on the issue, the
minister said, and work was under way on revised memoranda of
understanding between the electricity utilities of the two countries
and between the two governments.
"It is one of the key projects that the president ( Jacob Zuma ), in
his capacity as co-chair of the African Unionï¿½s champions forum on
infrastructure, is dealing with," Ms Peters said.
The Grand Inga project has the potential to be the largest
hydroelectric project in the world, dwarfing even the Three Gorges dam
in China, and could make a significant contribution not only to
addressing SAï¿½s energy needs but also to providing millions of people
in other countries with access to electricity.
It has the capacity to generate 40000MW of electricity ï¿½ more than
SAï¿½s current generation.
The South African governmentï¿½s integrated resource plan makes
provision for imported hydro power, and Ms Peters said during a panel
discussion during the World Economic Forum on Africa that the quantity
imported could be amended if circumstances changed.
However, development of the $80bn Grand Inga project has been
hamstrung for many years by a lack of finance, and by political risk
and instability . But the World Bank, the African Development Bank and
other investors have expressed interest in investing in the project.
Currently, the two dams on the Inga Falls ï¿½ the largest in the world,
situated about 140km outside Kinshasa ï¿½ operate at a low output of
Ms Peters indicated that work was being undertaken by the government
and scientists on clean coal technologies to reduce the carbon
emissions from SAï¿½s coal-fired power stations, which provide the bulk
of the countryï¿½s electricity.
Eskom CEO Brian Dames said the Southern African Development Community
should also develop an integrated resource plan.
Meanwhile, it emerged during a panel discussion on Africaï¿½s
infrastructure needs that sub-Saharan Africaï¿½s poor infrastructure
shaved 2% off its gross domestic product and lowered productivity by
Research indicated that R93bn of new infrastructure investment was
needed each year, just about double the current level.
Transnet CEO Brian Molefe, the former head of the Public Investment
Corporation, said he believed Africa should use its accumulated
pension fund reserves and social security funds, which in a few years
may amount to about $250bn , for infrastructure investment on the
continent rather than investing in foreign equity markets.
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