Monthly Archives: September 2016



Cameroon is a growing economy with rapidly increasing electricity demand, particularly in the industrial sector. The county is currently grappling with a power deficit, and energy efficiency measures are becoming critical for meeting Cameroon’s electricity demand in short, medium and long term. This precaious electricity crisis negatively affects doing business in the country. Cameroon’s development objectives, under the programme Vision 2035, contemplates significant investments in the energy sector including renewable energy. The policy goals of the government are to ensure energy independence via increased production and distribution of electricity (through the development of Cameroon’s hydropower potential), of oil and gas and to contribute to economic development. According to Basil Atangana Kouna, Cameroon’s Minister of Water and Energy Resources, “Energy supply has been the main hurdle in Cameroon’s path towards economic growth.”
This policy brief examines the state of affairs of the electricity sector in Cameroon and how its insufficiency hampers the business environment. The policy brief first of all gives an overview of the electicity situation in Cameroon as well as the juridical and policy atmoshphere governing the elelctricity sector in the country. The policy brief then examines certain challenges the electricity sector faces with respect to doing business in Cameroon. Suggestions are made for the need for adequate laws and policy, the need for better leadership, the need for Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) to be involved in the renewable energy sector and the need for a vibrant national stock exchange as a way out of the electricity crisis in Cameroon.

An overview of Cameroon’s (energy) electricity situation and major challenges
Cameroon, Africa in miniature, is a country with a lot of potential: rich in natural resources and fertile soils and a vibrant age group, being the most populated country in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) region. Unlike other African countries, Cameroon benefits from a relatively high social and political stability seen in the fact that she has not suffered from any major political conflict since independence except from the recent Boko Haram attacks.

Cameroon is the 114th most competitive economy in the world, out of 140 countries assessed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The country moves up two places compared to 2015, but still comes behind Gabon (103rd), first Central African nation in this ranking 2015-2016. However, the WEF emphasizes, that Cameroon is 10 places ahead of Nigeria (124th), the leading economy on the continent. Cameroon could be a favourable doing business environment in Africa, but for the chronic energy crisis.

Concerning energy resources, Cameroon is endowed with abundance of renewable energy sources most of which is underutilized or unexploited. Field surveys carried out in August 2016 by the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action (CACLiTA) in several neighborhoods in the political and economic capitals, Yaoundé and Douala, respectively, show that in Cameroon today, a great majority of the population still relies on conventional solid fuels such as charcoal for domestic activities. However, other sources of energy exist such as hydropower, coal, petroleum, biofuels and waste (most of which is not recycled). Those other energy sources are not exploited and most of Cameroon’s electricity is obtained from three major hydroelectric power stations which are Edea, Lagdo and Song Loulou with ongoing hydroelectric dam projects like the Lom Pangar and the Memve’ele and Mekin hydroelectric dams.

According to the Electricity Sector Regulation Agency (ARSEL), Cameroon has significant considerable hydroelectric resources, renewable energies and small hydrocarbons. Apart from oil, Cameroon has natural gas reserves currently estimated at about 186 billion m³ as well as has the second hydroelectric potential in Sub-Saharan Africa after the Democratic Republic of Congo(19.7 GW fair technical potential for energy production of 115 TWh / year). In terms of solar energy, Cameroon has a rich and handy potential, especially in the country’s Northern part.

The organization, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) in a recent Policy Database reported that, 70% to 80% of Cameroon’s power is derived from hydropower sources, with the remainder from conventional thermal sources. Cameroon’s first independent power producing agreement (IPP) will add 216 MW in power generation and trigger the development of Cameroon’s gas reserves, as yet unexploited. Also, Cameroon will further increase its generation capacity when the new Lom Pangar plant becomes fully operational.

According to REEEP in the same report quoted above, the key constraints facing the electricity sector relate to the narrow geographic space and relative obsolescence of the transmission and distribution networks. Consequently, there is significant unmet solvent demand. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the country’s three main transmission grids are completely isolated from one another and no exchange of available surpluses can be made between the grids.

In terms of Cameroon’s energy potentials, hydropower remains the major source of energy in Cameroon although its resources have not been completely exploited. Also, there is good solar potential which is not well developed due to limited commitment and dedication of government in taking important steps to boost the sector, save a few solar panels which have been installed in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s political capital, and Douala, the economic capital used mostly for lighting, nothing else has been done.

Furthermore, wind energy is almost completely neglected, there are only about two rapid wind turbines installed in Douala, the economic capital, meanwhile the regions which have warm springs like Ngaoundere, the mount Cameroon area and the Muanenguba zone, all in the South West region of Cameroon, which can generate great amounts of wind energy have not been developed.

Being a dominantly agricultural economy, Cameroon has a large and unutilized potential of biomass primarily from agriculture and forest. Also, palm oil produced by companies like Cameroon’s palm oil production industry, PAMOL, and Cameroon Development Cooperation ( CDC) has been used to generate biodiesel which is mainly used for agricultural purposes. Furthermore, some rural areas face deforestation due to the fact that wood cut for domestic purposes like cooking and heating is not replaced and this has led to many challenges of energy affordability and environmental impact.

Cameroon has potentials for geothermal energy which has not been tapped. There are hot water regions like the Ngaoundere region and the mount Cameroon region amongst others, but little or no feasibility studies have been carried out to identify their full potential.

In its vision 2035, the Cameroonian government has developed an objective to invest in the energy sector with its major target being to increase energy production in order to meet up with the increased demand caused by population growth and the current economic boom especially in the industrial sector. This is also aimed at attracting both foreign and national investors.

Tackling major challenges
Poor policy and juridical environment governing Cameroon’s electricity sector
Cameroon does not have an explicit energy policy which is available to the public. Several attempts have been made at coming up with an energy policy but they have all been faced with shortcomings as outlined below,

– In 1990, Cameroon had an energy policy which aimed at incorporating all the available energy sources but it has not been implemented.
– In December 1998, there was another policy concerning energy which focuses only on hydroelectric power.
– In 2005, the Ministry of Energy and Water stated that a new Energy plan would be developed by 2030.
– Also, the Vision 2035 projects the development of renewable energy.
– Finally, there is also a plan known as the rural electrification plan which aims at developing electricity in rural areas through the construction and renovation of diesel and power plants.

Although they are prescribed by the regulations in force, renewable energy is almost inexistent in Cameroon. Law N ° 2011/022 of 14 December 2011 governing the electricity sector in Part IV spells out general goals for promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and for the use of renewables within the context of expanding rural electrification. The law also states that the State will ensure the promotion and development of renewable energy through establishing regulation for conditions and mechanisms for research, development, production of equipment and project financing. Also, in its title IV, Chapter I, Law n°98/022 of 24 December 1998 governing the electricity sector, the Electricity Sector Regulatory Agency (ARSEL) and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) are in charge of the promotion and the follow-up of the use of the primary sources of energy, in particular renewable sources.

Cameroon’s Ministry of Water Resources and Energy (MINEE) through ARSEL requested the formulation of a National Policy, Strategy and Action Plan for the development of Energy Efficiency Policy in the country which would be developed by 2030. It seems the formulation and implementation of the long-term Energy Sector Development Plan (PDSE 2030) is slow.

Even though slow, a renewable energy policy is being prepared, with policy goals to increase the share of renewables in power and heat generation, and to involve private capital in the delivery of energy but it has to be an articulate energy policy which is vital in leading the country towards effective utilisation of its resources. This policy will favour investments in the corporate and industrial sector.

Giving priority to the production of renewable energies
The electricity policy in Cameroon should promote the development of renewable energies like solar thermal and photovoltaic, wind power, exploitable hydropower streams with power exceeding 5MW, biomass energy, geothermal energy and energies from marine origin. The state should therefore ensure the promotion and development of renewable energy as well as provide the conditions, procedures and mechanisms for research and development, local production of materials and project financing. This will go a long way to fill the void which exists in terms of demand of supply of energy in Cameroon.

A survey was carried out by CACLITA involving 40 policy actors randomly selected from ministerial departments in Cameroon including the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Water and Energy, with respect to improving the juridical and policy environment of the energy sector. 62.50% strongly agreed that there was indeed a need to improve laws and policy governing this sector. 20% of the policy actors agreed though not strongly. 12.50% neither agreed nor disagreed. 5% strongly disagreed that there was need for new laws and policy change.

Addressing the problem of lack of renewable energy expertise
Renewable energy is often identified as too costly, partly due to lack of well trainned personnel. The renewable sector unfortunately lacks human resources to plan, design, install, monitor and maintain energy systems — but demand for this expertise is growing. There is no gainsaying that the country experiences poor human resources in the field of designing, evaluating and implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Addressing the human resource issue is a key point for attaining the objectives.

CACLiTA also questionned the selected team of policy actors from various ministerial departments including the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Water and Energy with respect to the lack of expertise in the renewable energy sector which negatively affects the planning, design and monitoring of the energy systems in the country. 72.50% of these policy actors strongly agreed that poorly trainned personnel negatively impacts progress in the electricity sector. 22.50% agreed though not strongly. 2.50% strongly disagreed while 2.50% disagreed.

Dismantling the monopoly in the management of electricity in Cameroon
There is need for the envisaged energy policy to promote the independent electricity production. Currently, the production and distribution of electricity in Cameroon is in the hands of one company which is the National Electricity Company with French acronym ENEO. This company is a monopoly which faces no competition from any other producer. For this reason, ENEO is not motivated to deliver the best services and their prices are quite high. This explains the constant electricity issues which the country faces. Thus, it is recommended that the production and distribution of electricity should be liberalized and independent producers should be encouraged to enter the market as stipulated by Law No 2011/022 of 14th December 2011. This will lead to increased production and competition which will result in better services and lower prices.

Effective leadership
In order to meet the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, effective leadership is also a key issue for the attainment of the targets within Cameroon. At national and regional levels, political authorities should be involved and support the action.

Moreover, politicians and government leadership of the country have to be aware of the opportunities that exist in the use of renewable energy as an alternative source of energy, and then put policies in place to advance the sector. This would go a long way in revamping the doing business environment in the country.

CACLiTA equally questionned the selected team of policy actors from various ministerial departments including the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Water and Energy with respect to the lack good leadership which negatively affects the planning, design and monitoring of the energy systems in the country. 45% of these policy actors strongly agreed that bad leadership negatively impacts progress in the electricity sector. 30 % agreed though not strongly. 15% strongly disagreed while 10% disagreed.

The need for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to invest in the sector via public private partnerships
In spite of the country’s endowment of vast renewable energy resources, as well as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which can be involved in the renewable energy sectors, much of the population still suffers from limited access to affordable and reliable modern energy services. The need for scaling-up investments in small- to medium- sized renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Cameroon remains urgent. It is thus important to promote private investments via SMEs in the electricity sector, in order for the population to benefit from a competitive service through innovation and efficient management of the available resources.

Likewise CACLiTA questionned the same 40 policy actors from various ministerial departments including the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Water and Energy with respect to the need for small and medium size entreprises(SMEs) to invest in the enegy sector for better planning, design and monitoring of the energy systems in the country. 62.50% of these policy actors strongly agreed that allowing SMEs invest via public private partnerships in this sector will positively impact progress in the electricity sector. 20 % agreed though not strongly. 12.50% strongly disagreed while 5% disagreed.

An assessment by CACLiTA with respect to the need for SMEs to be involved in the electrcity sector shows that there is a growing concensus amongst government officials for the need for public private investment options. Though this concensus remains weak it will go a long way to improve competition and better services for busineses and households.

Curbing corruption
Issues like corruption need to be addressed for Cameroon to adequately benefit from doing business opportunities with a sound energy policy. The American think-tank Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal recently published the 2016 ranking of the economic freedom index in the world, which measures economic freedom in countries since 1995, using criteria such as protection of property rights, the size of the state, budgetary and monetary policy and the fight against corruption. Out of a ranking of 178, Cameroon is positioned 29th in Africa and 130th in the world. When you have too many regulations (lack of economic freedom), companies face additional burdens and costs of transactions, undermining their competitiveness in the end. Corruption too, is a symptom of too much government intervention, so less freedom of choice for households and businesses. Therefore, with corruption, businesses pay bribes, additional expenses instead of investing them. The result is low competitiveness.

The current state of affairs with respect to corruption in the Cameroonian energy sector should be an eye-opener for the country to raise awareness and educate key stakeholders to create and develop a corupt free enabling environment for rapid renewable energy market development.

CACLiTA’s team also carried out a survey from the same 40 policy actors with respect to the need for corruption to be curbed in the enegy sector for better planning, design and monitoring of the energy systems in the country. 72.50% of these policy actors strongly agreed that corruption negatively impacts progress in the electricity sector and there was need to eradicate this cankerworm. 22.50% agreed though not strongly. 2.50% strongly disagreed while 2.50% disagreed.

CACLiTA’s assessment of the survey on corruption shows that many policy actors agree that corruption is a problem. There is thus need for stringent measures to be put in place by government to fight this ill.

A need for a vibrant stock exchange
Finally, the financial market should be taken into consideration. The Cameroonian government should develop the Douala Stock Exchange, make sure that all energy producing companies are listed in this financial market and encourage private investors to invest in the energy sector through this stock exchange. This will ensure that energy producing companies have enough capital to invest in their activities which will further lead to an improvement in the services offered.

CACLiTA’s team questionned the same 40 policy actors with respect to the need for a vibrant stock exchange for better planning, design and monitoring of the energy systems in the country. 45.5% of these policy actors strongly agreed that there was need for a vibrant stock exchange to postively impact progress in the electricity sector . 30% agreed though not strongly. 15% strongly disagreed while 10% disagreed.

CACLiTA’s assessment shows that there is need for more policy actors to trust and become used to the stock exchange culture as a way of better managing the electricity sector in the country. Statistics from CACLiTA’s survey shows that just few policy actors (45.5% from the random selection) have faith in the Douala stock exchange as a way out for the electricity crisis in the country.

This policy brief has examined the state of affairs of the the electricity sector in Cameroon and how its insufficiency hampers the business environment. The policy brief has given an overview of the electicity situation in Cameroon as well as the juridical and policy atmoshphere governing the elelctricity sector in the country. The policy brief has also examined certain challenges the electricity sector faces with respect to doing business in Cameroon. Suggestions have been made for the need for better leadership, the need to involve SMEs in renewable energy, the need to fight corruption and a vibrant stock exchange as a way out of the electricity crisis in Cameroon.

Sources and other readings

– Asan Vernyuy Wirba et al, Renewable energy potentials in Cameroon: Prospects and Challenges, Volume 76, April 2015, Pages 560-565

– British High Commission Yaoundé, ‘The Power and Energy Sector in Cameroon’ accessed at

– Cameroon’s population, accessed at

– Cameroon accessed at

– ENEO Cameroon is short form for Energy of Cameroon and it is the only company in Cameroon charged with the production and distribution of electricity in Cameroon accessed at

– Energy Sector Development Plan accessed at

– Heritage Foundation ‘2016 Index of Economic Freedom’ accessed at

– List of power stations in Cameroon, accessed at

– Michel Takam, ‘Development of Renewable Energy in Cameroon’ accessed at

– Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Transparency in the Dark – An Assessment of the Cameroonian Electricity Sector Reform, August 12, 2004, at

– Renewable Energy in Cameroon, Cameroon rural Energy Solutions accessed at

– Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) Data Base accessed at

– UK Department for International Trade, Overseas Business Risks-Cameroon, 25 August 2015 accessed

– VISION 2035 has as main objective to make Cameroon an emerging country by 2035, with the specific objectives being to: eradicate poverty by reducing it to less than 10 per cent thanks to accelerated and job-generating growth, become a middle income country in order to increase the average income, become a newly industrialized country and become an emerging country accessed at Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Cameroon Vision 2035, Working Paper, February 2009, 1-10.

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Posted by on September 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Grand Inga Dam Scheme: Dreams and Nightmares for the local communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Africa as a whole, 14 September 2016, by Augustin Nguh

The Grand Inga is the world’s largest hydropower scheme and it is proposed on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is a part of a greater vision by the international economic community to develop a power grid across Africa that will spur the continents industrial growth. It is a priority project for a number of African development organizations, including the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the South African Development Community (SADC), East African Power Pool (EAPP), Africa’s largest power utility- ESKOM, among others. The Grand Inga could generate up to 40000 MW of electricity, over twice the power generation of the Three Gorges Dam in China, and more than a third of the total electricity that is being currently produced in Africa.

In design, the Grand Inga is very complex and consists of eleven dams and seven hydropower generation stations, of which the Inga 3 Basse Chute (Low Head), with a designed capacity of 4800 MW is the first phase. The sum of US$ 14 billion is held to be the estimated cost of constructing Inga 3. Of this sum, the World Bank approved a grant of US$ 73.1 million. This grant will finance the technical studies and legal work to prepare for the construction of the dam, which was expected to start in 2016 and take seven years . With the Grand Inga project supported by the international economic community and the government of the DRC, the following questions begs answers:: Why was the Grand Inga dam proposed? Will it be of any benefit to the local communities in the DRC? This article attempts to advance the reason for the project and provide a glimpse of the socio-economic situation of the DRC and issues the Grand Inga scheme will not address in the hope of providing some answers to the questions.

Why was the Project proposed?

With a price tag of over $80 billion, the Grand Inga dam was proposed to narrow the energy gap in Africa. It is common knowledge that Africa faces a huge infrastructure and energy gap which has contributed to the continent’s slow economic development and poverty . According to the World Bank’s claim, Africa’s infrastructure funding gap is $ 93 billion per year until 2020, and 40% of this is for power needs. A World Bank’s study, (“Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation”) conducted in 24 countries, estimates that the poor state of infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa cuts national economic growth by 2 percentage point every year and reduces business productivity by as much as 40 percent.

Surprisingly, Africa has a huge potential for all forms of energy. The DRC in particular, is endowed with immense natural resources, whose development has failed to lift the majority of its citizens out of abject poverty. Proponents of the Grand Inga project (mainly African governments and development organizations) argue that the Grand Inga scheme will provide cheaper and readily available energy and allow Africa’s industrial and manufacturing industry to take off. The World Bank, one of the funders of mega-dams around the world, argues that a new generation of mega-dams, such as the Grand Inga, could ‘catalyze very large benefits to improve access to infrastructure services’ in Africa. This view has been shared and promoted by Eskom ( the South African electricity provider) and NEPAD. In the words of a former top executive of Eskom, “Africa urgently needs energy to lift its people out of poverty and deliver sustainable development. The Congo River offers enormous possibilities for doing this.” While implying that the project will have a trickle-down effect to benefit the poor, he added that “ Hydroelectricity from the Congo could generate more than 40,000 MW enough to power Africa’s industrialization with the possibility of selling the surplus to southern Europe.” Theoretically, this may be true. In practice, however, account must be taken of the myriad of risks. These include technical challenges such as poor maintenance, metering and high transmission and distribution losses, as well as non-technical risks, including theft and corruption at all levels, associated with a project of this magnitude, and the unstable political situation of the country. All these challenges are evident in the Inga I and II dams.

In the years following independence, under the Mobutu regime, the Inga I (351 MW) (1972) and Inga II dam (1424 MW) (1982) were built, even though feasibility studies had found both projects uneconomical and in excess of the country’s electricity needs at that time. Neglect, financial mismanagement, years of war and siltation caused the Inga dam’s turbines and associated electrical infrastructure to deteriorate long before their expected lifespan. By 2002, the dams were producing only 40 % of their capacity. Within 10 years, poor maintenance, theft and the ravages of the tropical climate caused the transmission lines to deliver less than half the electricity it was designed to carry.


The Grand Inga Project vs. Local Communities.

According to a study conducted by Seraphine Wakana and Ernest Bamou of the African Development Bank and UNDP respectively, the DRC, in 2013, witnessed an economic growth with gross domestic product (GDP) of 8.1% (against 7.2% in 2012). This growth was driven by investments in the mining sector, improved agricultural productivity and infrastructure reconstruction. A rationalized macroeconomic policy and stable commodity prices has helped to contain inflation which in 2012, stood at 2.7%. The exchange rate has depreciated slightly (0.3%). Foreign exchange reserves at the Central bank has been increased thanks to proper co-ordination of monetary and fiscal policies and export earnings

Despite the recorded economic growth, the DRC still remains one of the poorest nations in Africa and the world, and ironically, one of the richest in terms of natural resources. These natural resources, if properly exploited, would uplift the country from poverty. Very little has been done to develop these resources for the benefit of the people and so extreme poverty still persists throughout the country despite ongoing macroeconomic growth. Most people who now generate income rely on informal trading. The country heavily relies on the outside world for technical capacity to develop its natural resources.

According to recent findings by the World Bank on the socio-economic situation in the DRC, poverty rates remains very high (despite witnessing a fall from 71% in 2005 to 63% in 2012) . On the 2014 Human Development Index, the DRC ranks the second lowest (186 out of 187 countries), and approximately 87.7 per cent of Congolese live on less than $1.25 a day

The labor market remains very small and real wages are not increasing. There is rampant malnutrition, leading to high infant mortality rates. Very little has been done to improve the quality of education in the country and many children remain far outside the education system. The government of the DRC with the financial support of multilateral development financiers embarking on a project as ambitious and grandiose, the impression one gets (given the current socio-economic situation of the country) is that local communities were not consulted and did not participate in the formulation of the project and therefore their needs and aspirations has been side-lined or disregarded. The feasibility study for Inga 3 was supposed to be published and presented to the public in Kinshasa in June 2012 but was only presented in September and to date, the full document remains confidential. This is in violation of the right for people to be consulted and to participate in development projects that directly or indirectly impact their lives and their right to decide their own development priorities, as recognized by international and regional human rights instruments, notably the African Charter which in its Article 22 states:
‘All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind.’

Proponents of mega dam projects argue that such projects are a catalyst for development. Between 1998 and 2000, an unprecedented global process to review large dams and their development effectiveness took place. In its final report, the World Commission on Dams (WCD) acknowledged that “dams have made important contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable…” However, they pointed out that “in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by tax payers and by the natural environment”, when such projects are embarked upon.

The Grand Inga project has been heralded as the Holy Grail for electricity one which will light up Africa, spur the continent’s development and lift it out of poverty. On the contrary, this will not be the case. Close to 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in a state of permanent power outage. This confirms the fact that Africa urgently needs energy to lift its people out of poverty and deliver sustainable development. However, embarking on a mega dam project (the Grand Inga) is not the best solution to Africa’s energy crisis. According to Rudo Sanyanga of International Rivers, an International NGO working against destructive riverside projects, the Grand Inga project will not benefit the poor or close the energy divide in the DRC and Africa as a whole. Of DR Congo’s 70 million people, only 9% have access to electricity- about 30% in urban areas and an alarming 1% in rural areas. In Kinshasa, the capital city, “there are over 10 million people and less than 30% have access to electricity in a country with so much potential to generate electricity. Connections are intermittent and less than 10% have electricity for 24 hours a day.”

According to a “Cooperation treaty” signed between the governments of South Africa and the DRC, South Africa is the principal purchaser of power that will be generated at Inga 3 power plant, the first phase of the Grand Inga . The country will purchase 2500 MW of the total 4800 MW from the proposed dam (Inga 3). The remainder will be sold to mining companies in Katanga, southeastern DRC and households in Kinshasa and surrounding regions. The 40000 MW that will be generated by the Grand Inga is meant for transportation through transmission lines to southern Europe and South Africa. This means a substantial portion of the tropical rainforest will have to be cleared, destroying rich biodiversity to make way for transmission lines. In addition, most of the transmission lines will pass over villages without electrifying them, therefore living villagers in darkness. In the words of a researcher with the Institute of Democracy, “Local power grids are not included in the budget. African communities living in darkness are not the intended beneficiaries of the Grand Inga and the 500 million people who have been promised electricity will remain in the dark. “

Besides living local communities in darkness, the Grand Inga dam scheme, it is held, will have severe environmental and social impact. Current designs of Inga 3 and subsequent Grand Inga will result in the diversion of the mighty Congo River. According to some environmental activities, this would create a reservoir that would flood the Bundi Valley (home to 30,000 villagers) displacing its inhabitants, affecting local agricultural lands and natural environment and may cause huge emissions of greenhouse gases that would contribute to global warming.

The assertion that the Grand Inga project will have a trickle-down benefit has also been held to be lacking in substance. According to Dr. Sanyanga, “the assumption being promoted is that by developing Grand Inga and exporting or supplying the mines, it will then create new jobs in the mining industry and it will trickle down to the community—but it has never worked.” When the Inga I and Inga II dams were built, the villagers on whose lands the dams were built were promised jobs, electricity and water. This never happened. Six communities were forcibly displaced without compensation and have never received any payment till date. This goes to confirm a 2004 report co-produced by International Rivers and the World Energy Council in which it is stated that:
“Investments in centralized, capital-intensive conventional energy enterprises such as (…) large dams largely benefit high and middle-income urban communities, commercial establishments and industries through electricity distributed through power grids. Poor, dispersed rural communities that are far from the grid rarely benefit from such investments.” Therefore, the Grand Inga project will have no trickle-down benefits to help local communities in the DRC and Africa in general fight against poverty. This in contravention of the peoples’ right to benefit sharing, arising from activities taking place on their land, especially in relation to natural resource exploitation.

Conclusion and recommendations

Since the turn of the century, new and traditional financiers have increased their funding for infrastructure projects especially in Africa, with China being the biggest provider of non-traditional finance for infrastructure on the basis of ‘resource for infrastructure’ or R4I A report by International Rivers titled “Infrastructure for whom?” notes that Infrastructure has become a buzz word in current development debates. In November 2011, the Group of 20 (G-20), the World Bank and other multilateral development banks prepared new strategies for infrastructure development, with more emphasis on strategic regional infrastructure projects such as large dams and transport corridors. They proposed to make such projects attractive for private investment through public guarantees and other incentives. Centralized infrastructure projects with private participation (it is argued) improves the delivery of services and lowers the costs of services such as electricity The Grand Inga dam scheme has been held to be illustrative of this approach. However, as seen from the preceding paragraphs, this ambitious project is a nightmare for local communities and environmental and human rights activities, given that is is plagued with environmental and social flaws that needs to be addressed, requiring extensive consultation and participation of the Congolese people. The negative impacts of mega dam projects has been well researched and document. However, the funders of this project seem not to have learned any lessons from the bad experiences of such projects. The following recommendations, if taken into consideration would be instrumental in closing the energy gap and advancing the country’s development:

Investing in decentralized power supply projects
There is not prosperity without infrastructure. However, infrastructure does not necessarily benefit the poor. Centralized projects have often had massive social impacts on local communities, but their benefits have largely bypassed the rural people, as will be the case with the Grand Inga. The Grand Inga is not a solution to uplift the DR Congo from its current socio-economic predicament. If the World Bank, African Development Bank and the government of the DR Congo truly wants to close its energy gap and spur the country’s development, then the US$80 billion and rising cost for the Grand Inga should be invested in decentralized power supply project. This includes small and medium scale hydro across the country as well as alternative energy sources such as solar energy. Peter Bosshard, Policy Director of International Rivers, holds that “Solar, wind and micro-hydropower are more effective in reducing energy poverty in Africa and do not suffer from cost and time overruns that are typical of large dams.” The DR Congo has a large potential for small and medium-sized hydropower projects, which are more effective at providing energy to the poor, have modest social and environmental footprint and can be built quickly. Small hydropower projects are already generating power in Eastern Congo. Very little has been done to develop other energy alternatives (Solar, wind, geothermal and biogas) in the country. In terms of solar energy potential, the DR Congo is in a very high level sun belt where values are between 3240 and 6000 watts-peak/m2/s. This makes installation of photovoltaic systems viable in most parts of the country ( ).

Curbing corruption

The DRC has to thus revisit its anti corruption strategy especially with respect to hydroelectric projects such as the Grand Inga Dam hydroelectric project. Government officials commissioned to undergo compensations need to be well trained. There is equally a need for mixed commissions which include anti corruption experts, members of the companies carrying of the projects, representatives of the populations like Mayors and Parliamentarians and Senators. Such measures may go a long way to curb corruption.

Create an Enabling Environment for Private Sector Participation
Recently the energy sector of the DRC has witnessed the advent of new actors with the goal of providing cheap off-grid electricity to the people. Several companies have began redistributing solar products. However, the market for them is typically expensive. These companies usually supply sell their products in the cities whereas the real clients are in the rural areas. To address this situation, several companies have created non-governmental organisations (NGOS) to promote solar products in rural markets in order to avoid fiscal measures. It should be stated that the private sector is evolving in a difficult environment due to socio-political crisis that the DRC has been facing for the last 30 years, a situation which discourages private investors and public assistance in development. Registered companies that offer energy solutions to the population have not been able to develop adequately. The government should encourage and motivate the private sector to expand its activities , given that the investment required to promote off-grid lighting technologies in the informal sector is presently unavailable.

Successful Rehabilitation first

Rehabilitating Inga I and II as well as its transmission lines has been argued by some to be a good option for the government of the DRC to embark in order to close the energy gap and spur the country’s development. However, attempt at this option has not been successful. In 2003, the World Bank calculated that the DRC power grid including the dams and transmission lines could be rehabilitated for less than US$200 million and be completed by 2007. However, the Bank overlooked the extent of degradation of the dams, transmission line and other critical infrastructure in their assessment. Consequently, in 2007 the Bank approved a $297 million project to fully rehabilitate the dams. By 2011, very little has been done and additional cost overruns identified totaling to over US$ 1. 2 billion over the past ten years and the project is not close to being finished. .
If the government of the DRC and the World Bank are so keen to developing Inga III and Grand Inga, a moratorium on promoting these dam developments should be adopted until there is evidence of development gains from current rehabilitation. This moratorium should be upheld until post-rehabilitation operation of the power grid has been evaluated and considered successful.

Further Reading
Augustin Nguh Corruption and Infrastructure mega projects in the DR Congo: A recipe for failure? International Rivers, 2013, available at

Chofor Che, The claws of corruption tear into Cameroon’s Memve’ele hydroelectric project, available at

Foster, Vivien and Briceno-Garmendia, C Africa Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation Washington D.C: World Bank, 2010.

Nathaniet Green, Benjamin K. Sovacool and Kathleen Hancock (2015). Grand Designs: Assessing the African Energy Security Implications of the Grand Inga Dam. African Studies Review, 58, pp 133-158 doi:10.1017/asr.2015.7.

Rudo Sanyanga Will Congo’s Poor Benefit from World’s Largest Dam Project? Available on .
Terri Hathaway Grand Inga, Grand Illusions? World Rivers Review V20 N2 p. 6-7.


Posted by on September 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


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