Construction on Inga 3 hydropower project could start by year end, ambassador says

17th February 2021 By: News24Wire

Democratic Republic of Congo's ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Jean Le'on Ngandu Ilunga has hinted that construction on the Inga 3 hydro-power project could start by the end of the year.

"We believe in the coming month we will see concrete steps towards implementation. Towards the end of this year, some concrete steps will be seen on the ground," he said in response to a question by News24 during an online seminar organised by the Institute for Security Studies.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi has stated Inga as one of the infrastructure projects that the country would like to push during its year as African Union chair. Tshisekedi took over from President Cyril Ramaphosa last weekend.

Ilunga said:

The president of the DRC is very much determined to have it take off the ground.

He added that the project had already seen an eight year delay as financiers and technicians were weighing the best options.

One of the options was to build the project in three phases until it reached its full power capacity of 4 500 megawatt, but some believed this was not viable.

South Africa signed a memorandum of agreement with the DRC about the project in 2013, and it was expected to add 2 500 megawatts (about 5%) to South Africa's energy mix by 2030.

But if construction doesn't start by 2023, this agreement will lapse unless the parties agree to extend it.

Critics have warned that the project was risky and expensive to South Africa, and also said Eskom would not be able to afford the construction of 2 000km of power lines to the Inga Dam.

Officials have denied that disagreements between the shortlisted construction consortiums - China's Three Gorges Corp and Spain's Actividades de Construcción y Servicios (ACS) - were a reason for the delay.

Ramaphosa told leaders at the AU summit in Addis Ababa a year ago that Inga 3 was one of the four continental infrastructure projects South Africa would be fast-tracking as chair of the AU, but Covid-19 was reported to have caused further delays to the project.

Ramaphosa's spokesperson Tyrone Seale could not immediately respond to questions on whether Ramaphosa and Tshisekedi discussed this project during their meeting just before Christmas last year, or on South Africa's expectations of the project.