Grand Inga Dam还是Inga 3?刚果河上的巨型项目

Inga Dam - Source: Britannica
Inga Dam – Source: Britannica

Grand Inga Dam or Inga 3? The massive Congo River Hydropower Development

Amos Katya Africa| Renewable Energy| Project Management| Project Development & Delivery| Contracts| Engineering

The Congo River, Africa’s most potent and the world’s second largest by discharge volume after the Amazon, releases an average of 42,000 cubic meters of water into the ocean every second. It holds the record as the world’s deepest river, reaching 220 meters at certain points, and stretches 4,700 kilometers across the Democratic Republic of Congo, ranking as the ninth-longest globally.

The river’s immense hydropower potential, estimated at 100 gigawatts, is highlighted by Inga Falls, a stunning natural feature located 220 kilometers southwest of Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital. Over a span of 14 kilometers, the Congo River descends rapidly by 96 meters, creating Inga Falls, the world’s largest and most powerful rapid.

In the 1950s, Belgian colonizers recognized Inga Falls’ hydropower potential, leading to the approval of construction plans for power stations. However, funding issues delayed construction. After Congo gained independence in 1960, the plans were revived under Mobutu Sese Seko’s leadership in 1965. In 1968, construction began on Inga 1, a 351 MW hydroelectric power station west of Inga Falls. Shortly after its completion in 1972, Inga 2, a second phase 1.4 GW station, commenced construction just one kilometer south of the first.

Grand Inga Dam Project

To fully exploit Inga Falls’ hydropower potential, engineers proposed the Grand Inga Dam project. This ambitious initiative involves constructing a dam north of Inga Falls to redirect water into the Bundi River Valley, creating a reservoir with a southern dam housing six hydroelectric power stations and a combined capacity of 40 gigawatts. If realized, this would make it the world’s largest hydroelectric power station, almost double the size of the China’s Three Gorges Dam complex’s construction, estimated to cost $80 billion, would occur over several phases, taking over a decade to complete.


The Grand Inga Dam project, if realized, holds transformative potential for Africa. Firstly, it could independently soar DRC’s installed hydropower capacity, which is currently estimated at 2.7 GW into unprecedented heights. With an estimated generation cost of only three cents per kWh, the dam would serve as a cost-effective source of green energy, fostering economic development and improving the standard of living for communities across the Congo and neighboring countries.

Additionally, the construction of the Grand Inga Dam would be a catalyst for job creation, generating tens of thousands of new employment opportunities and revitalizing the national economy. The project’s scale necessitates international collaboration, fostering cooperation and peace throughout the region.

Moreover, the environmental impact of the Grand Inga Dam is relatively small when considering its substantial power capacity. While the reservoir would flood a 40 square kilometer area and displace thousands of people, this impact is modest compared to its power-generating potential. In comparison, the Three Gorges Dam, which produced 22.5 gigawatts of power, flooded over 630 square kilometers and displaced 1.3 million people. The Grand Inga Dam’s ability to provide uninterrupted green energy to millions of people makes it an environmentally significant initiative with a more restrained ecological footprint, particularly in terms of forest area and displaced populations compared to similar projects.


While the Grand Inga Dam holds the potential to offer a substantial amount of affordable green energy for Africa, several challenges need consideration. Firstly, the colossal $80 billion price tag is a significant hurdle, especially for a country like the Congo. Funding for such a project would necessitate loans from numerous international banks and organizations. There is a concern that the project might encounter corruption challenges like the previous two projects.

Moreover, the demand for such a massive power project is questionable. The Congo’s power grid is currently quite small, and despite a population of over 90 million, only one in five people have access to electricity. Additionally, the existing 2.8 gigawatts of installed capacity are deteriorating and require restoration. Inga One and Two, which have fallen into disrepair due to neglect, are not operating at full capacity and urgently need rehabilitation. Building an enormous 40 GW power plant seems unnecessary and would not address the infrastructure or demand issues in the Congo.

In response to these challenges, advocates have proposed exporting excess energy to neighboring countries and potentially even Europe. However, this would necessitate the development of a regional power grid, which is currently non-existent. The construction of such a grid would incur billions of additional dollars in costs. Opposition has surfaced against the proposal to use the 40GW generated by the Grand Inga Dam as an input for Green Hydrogen Plants for export. The idea has encountered resistance even in its initial stages, with critics raising concerns and expressing dissent. The opposition likely stems from various factors, including economic, environmental, political, and social considerations. Considering these factors, constructing the entire Grand Inga Dam complex appears illogical at the present moment.

Inga 3 Dam Project

Although the Grand Inga Dam is considered impractical, the smaller Inga 3 project gained traction in the early 2000s. An expansion to the existing Inga, featuring two dams, was proposed and widely discussed during this period. In 2014, the World Bank approved a $73 million grant for Inga 3, representing a third-phase expansion to the existing dams. This expansion would entail constructing a hydropower station 2 kilometers east of Inga 2, generating 4.8 gigawatts. Of this capacity, 2.5 gigawatts were earmarked for export to South Africa, 1.3 gigawatts for Congo’s mining industry, and the remainder to provide power to 7 million people around Kinshasa.

However, disagreements with the Congolese government in 2016 led to the World Bank suspending its funding for the Inga 3 project. Subsequently, Congo sought collaboration with South Africa and various private companies, including Spanish, Australian, and Chinese developers. It appears Congolese government is entering into deals with all and sundry on the Inga Dam matter. Despite these efforts, no substantial deals have been inked. Yet, with the anticipated increase in demand over the coming years, there is a strong likelihood that an Inga 3 project will materialize. This, along with successive expansions, could prove highly beneficial for the region, serving as a significant source of green energy to power the African continent. Eventually, this momentum could contribute to the realization of the larger Grand Inga Dam complex, tapping into the immense natural power of Inga Falls.