World Bank halts funding for Grand Inga Dam in DR Congo

The World Bank Group has halted millions of dollars worth of funding for the first phase of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) Grand Inga Dam complex, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest ever infrastructure project.  

The bank issued a statement yesterday (26 July) saying it had "suspended disbursements" to the $12bn Inga-3 Basse Chute project following the Congolese government’s decision to take the project in a "different strategic direction to that agreed between the World Bank and the government in 2014".

In March 2014, the bank’s International Development Association arm approved a $73m grant toward to costs of setting up the project. So far, 6% of that project financing has been disbursed. The money was to have been spent on strategic advice and research, as well as building up the administrative capacity of the government.

The World Bank’s withdrawal illustrates that Inga 3 violates basic environmental and procurement standards. Any other investors should think twice about getting involved in this white elephant– Joshua Klemm, International Rivers

The bank did not say anything more detailed about why it had cut off funds, but noted that it had understood when agreeing the grant in 2014 that the project would be developed as a public-private partnership.

International Rivers, an advocacy group that opposes the Grand Inga project on the grounds that it will benefit international mining companies rather than the population of the DRC, suggested that the bank had withdrawn support because the DRC was rushing development in order to honour a power supply agreement with South Africa.

Joshua Klemm, policy director of International Rivers, commented on the group’s website: "The World Bank’s withdrawal illustrates that Inga 3 violates basic environmental and procurement standards. Any other investors should think twice about getting involved in this white elephant."

Two consortiums were in the running to build the dam: a Chinese team composed of hydropower specialists Three Gorges and Sinohydro, and a Spanish group is made up of Grupo ACS (Actividades de Construccion y Servicios) and infrastructure specialist Eurofinsa, both based in Madrid. A decision on which to appoint is due to be made next month, with the aim of beginning work on site in June 2017.

This Inga 3 Basse Chute will involve building the DRC’s third dam on the Inga Falls. This is expected to produce 4.8GW of electricity, almost double the country’s present installed generating capacity.

This dam is the first of a series that are expected to be built on the Inga Falls. In its final form, the scheme may consist of some eight power stations built over about 50 years for a total of about $100bn.

The total installed capacity of the falls will be between 40 and 50GW, making it the largest power producer on Earth and, arguably, the most important piece of infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank Group statement added that it "was in a continuing dialogue with the government about the implementation arrangements of the project, with the goal of ensuring that it follows international good practice".

Image: The Inga falls on the lower Congo: the most potent hydroelectric site on Earth (Wikimedia Commons)


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  1. The following was my response to International Rivers via Mr. Bosshard, Interim Director of the organisation. My answer came after Mr, Bosshard responded to my first intervention on the article : “DRC: Inga 3 to proceed without EIA, says International Rivers” that appeared on where I was condemning the attitude of International Rivers for their one sided and wrong view on the Inga project while Africans and many friends of Africa believe so much in the benefits of Inga.

    So, below was my answer and the comments from both sides can be captured on the ESI Africa webpage above:

    (Please note that I had to cut my answer here by 1/3 as the could not give me more space. So, to read the all answer, please go to ESI Africa website)

    Dear Mr. Bosshard,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    The story of small dams, solar and wind power as a better option than big dams could as well be the story of small
    constructors who do not have the expertise in the construction of big dams, trying to push the big players out of the picture. I have been long in the marketing world to know how easy it is for a business to create itself a place in the market by making it its mission to extract and speak about the few negatives from established products while overselling the benefits of its own. It will then remain for consumers who are not aware of the true reality out there to echo the sentiment and help expand that notion until another day comes to tell a different story. Claims can often be supported by serious researches, which are often just work done in a vacuum and do not take into account all the factors that could show a totally different situation. The internet is full of examples of battles of interests, in which customers are left in the middle confused and wondering what is good for them? One that has been quite interesting has been the coffee saga where some experts for example have been saying hard and loud that coffee is not good for your health while others believe that coffee is actually very good if one wants to avoid sicknesses like Parkinson and Dementia late in life.

    The reality with small dams, solar and wind power infrastructures is that by the time we reach the all DR Congo and the rest of Africa with about 50 GW of electricity like the Inga project is proposing, probably more than 100 years will have elapsed and on the long run more money will have been spent on constructions or lost through corruption as well; more people will have been relocated, a generation or two will have gone without electricity and this because of a simple plausible fact that small dams and others will require working with too many different locations or projects, hence multiple different feasibility studies will need to be carried out, each project will require its own logistic plan each time etc., instead of…..

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