Tanzania awards $3.6bn Stiegler’s Gorge dam to Egyptian state contractor

An Egyptian state-owned contractor has been picked to design and build a 2.1GW dam on the Rufiji River in Tanzania, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement on Sunday.

Arab Contractors was chosen following a phone call last weekend between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli, during which President al-Sisi was invited to lay the project’s foundation stone.

"The dam construction will be done in a way that brings pride to Egypt, Tanzania and Africa," Sisi reportedly told Magufuli, adding that it will become a model for cooperation between African states.

Stiegler’s Gorge dam, which would be equal in generating capacity to the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, currently the largest in Africa, has been under discussion since the 1960s. The present project began in August 2017, when the Tanzanian government began advertising for bids.

A World Wide Fund for Nature report, released last year, estimated the cost at $3.6bn. In May, Tanzania considered allocating more than $300m to the scheme, about 40% of the country’s federal budget.

At present, around 37 million of Tanzania’s 54 million people have no access to mains electricity. If built, the dam would more than double the country’s installed generating capacity.

The prospect has drawn criticism from environmental NGOs, both for its effect on the core area of the Selous Game Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and the downstream ecology of the Rufiji.

When he announced the project in August last year, Magufuli dismissed concerns about the effect it would have on the reserve. He said: "I know various obstacles will emerge, but I urge Tanzanians to have a united stand on the project since it will only take up 3% of the Selous Game Reserve."

Image: Stiegler’s Gorge is named after a Swiss explorer who was killed by an elephant in 1907 (Panii/Creative Commons)  

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