Botswana has put its money and hope for electricity in the Western Power Corridor, a joint venture company based in Gaborone involving power utilities from Angola, Botswana, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
WestCor is planning to build the Inga 3 Dam, a 3,500 megawatt power station that has the backing of the World Bank and is a stepping stone to the Grand Inga project. Inga 3 is a power export project that, including 3,000 km of high voltage transmission lines, would cost about P25 billion.
The promoters of Inga extol its potential benefits for the region, improving transport links and using renewable energy to bring skills to indigenous communities. Andr? Caill?, chairman of the World Energy Council, compares Grand Inga with the Hydro-Quebec?s development of power projects in Canada.
?My own province was carried into the industrial world with hydropower,? he said.
The trickle-down effect is disputed by International Rivers Network (IRN), a campaigning organisation, which argued yesterday that Grand Inga was a scheme for big mining companies and did not include the costly local distribution networks needed to deliver power to the poor. It would also be a magnet for corruption, it argued, because the DRC lacks the governance to handle a huge influx of funds. ?Once again, poor people are being used to sell a prestige project that will benefit industrial enclaves and urban elites,? said Terri Hathaway of the IRN.
Sir David King, Britain?s chief scientific adviser who is a supporter of Grand Inga, acknowledged the issue of corruption, but said it was a ?chicken and egg problem?.
He said: ?If we step back and wait for good governance in Africa, we won?t get good governance in Africa.?
Unwilling to wait is China: the Three Gorges Dam wants a piece of Inga and is in talks with Eskom. Magindustries, a Canadian miner, is refitting the old power stations of Inga 1 and Inga 2. Pushing hard at the door is the South African economy, which dominates the continent?s southern half and whose mining enterprises are moving north in search of opportunity. Eskom says demand for electricity in South Africa is rising at 3 percent per year with no new generators to provide growth.