The future shape of East Africa: What happens when the sleeping giant of Congo awakes
Posted Saturday, June 22 2013 at 13:02
- In this three-part special report, The EastAfrican explores three possible ways in which these “economic magnetic pulls” could determine the region’s economic and political architecture.
Will the driving engine be westward, where the fabulous riches of the DR Congo remain largely untapped?
Or will it be eastward, over the ocean, where India and China are roaring ahead, and looking to use the East African coast as a beachhead on the continent?
Or will the pull be northward, with Ethiopia, rather than Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, or DR Congo becoming the heart of the region’s economy?
But it’s not only the minerals that should draw East Africa’s, and the world’s attention to Kinshasa. Last month, the DR Congo announced that work would begin in 2015 of building the world’s largest hydropower dam, the Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River.
The Congo River is unique in that it has large rapids and waterfalls very close to the mouth, while most rivers have these features upstream.
At Inga, 50km from its entry into the Atlantic Ocean, the river drops a dramatic 96 metres, and for nearly a century, engineers have been grappling with the question of how best to harness this immense power.
The planned $80 billion Grand Inga will be massive: Producing 40,000 megawatts when complete, it will be capable of literally lighting up the continent, providing electricity to half of African.
Currently, the world’s largest hydropower plant is the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River in China, delivering 22,500 Megawatts — Grand Inga will be nearly double the size.
And, as pointed out earlier, it could also serve the crucial political function of easing water and energy related, tensions between countries like Ethiopia and Egypt.
Irrespective of how much the EAC will have evolved, when DR Congo comes into play, the regional economic map will still be shaped by what’s happening on the banks of River Congo and in the DR Congo’s mines.
Our Verdict/Likelihood Of This Happening In Next 15 Years: 4/10
• Next in the series, we look at THE NORTHWARD MAGNETIC PULL.