Skip to content

A New Boom in Hydro Schemes in Africa

Increasingly erratic rainfall patterns has resulted in fluctuating hydroelectric production at the continent’s dams. Meanwhile, the impact of dams and reservoirs, in terms of population displacement, loss of land and damage to local wildlife and environments, has been considered more seriously. Those problems all still exist, but the climate change benefits of hydropower, together with the capacity to generate a lot of electricity, are now seen as sufficiently important to make it a worthwhile investment in the eyes of some governments and funding institutions. As a result, a string of large projects, long planned but never developed, are now either under construction or being actively considered again. The biggest hydro project on the continent by some distance is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which has been built on the Nile, just 15km from the border with Sudan. Nigeria says that construction of the $5.8bn Mambilla project is now due to begin before the end of this year. It is to be built on the Donga River in Taraba State, in the east of the country, and will require the construction of four dams. Exim Bank of China has reportedly agreed to provide loans to cover 85% of the funding. Meanwhile, efforts to tap further hydro potential offered by the long-mooted Inga hydropower developments on the lower reaches of the Congo River in Democratic Republic of Congo remain bogged down.