On the 3rd August 2019 Africa Unite and International Rivers held the Grand Inga Project Dialogue at 6 Spin Street, Cape Town. The dialogue focused on the Grand Inga Project – its origins, impacts on South Africa and the DRC, and the energy future for both the DRC and SA. This dialogue was engaged to bring together people to share their expertise and knowledge with Congolese citizens residing in South Africa and South Africans, to raise awareness, and empower citizens to ask the right questions, and inspire them to get involved in the energy debate. The event gathered more than 50 people.
3 guest speakers were invited: the first speaker was Ange Asanzi, member of International Rivers, the second one was Salomé Elolo member of Synergie des Femmes Solidaires (FESO), and the third speaker was Keamogetswe Seipato from Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC).
Ange Asanzi spoke about the Inga Project and energy justice for the DRC. She went into details on the complexities in Africa including: climate uncertainties, political instability, and colonial legacy of dams, centralized power, and technology advancements. The main areas of concern were:
- The funding of the project: banks, South African government, China and Spain.
- The project is costly – and when Eskom is suffering financially, why is it viable to open up another project?
- Various obstacles
She concluded and questioned the audience, why building a new dam when the first two dams, Inga 1 and 2 are working at a less capacity. Not a single city or village between the dams and Kolwezi is connected to the power grid (86% of DRC’s population has no access to electricity). The energy harvested in the DRC still leaves Congolese in the dark because it is sold to other countries.
Salome Elolo is an African Woman from the DRC and a member of the Synergie des Femmes Solidaires. She spoke of what is happening on the ground in the DRC, where the community is experiencing a black out of information around the project. She expressed the pain and consequences for their communities, family and women from Inga projects 1 and 2. “We are rich in minerals, but the cost is our blood” – she repeated. The people of the DRC are demanding to restore Inga projects 1 and 2 before the Government starts Inga 3.
Keamogetswe Seipato spoke of the Macro factors pushing the Inga project, where governments and states have become the lubricant of corporations. This project is driven by the top 1% against the pain and determined for the majority of others. She explored how history shows that promises have not been kept in the past. She identified the conversations about electricity have shifted from nuclear to hydro power – but the same people are benefiting. She reiterated: “why is hydropower and dirty power on the cards” – when there are so many clean sustainable and better energy easily available and can be shared with the world.
The three presentations from the speakers raised a lot of questions amongst the participants such as people wanted to know how does International Rivers inform communities, raise awareness? If they would only focus on Inga Project, or also advocate against others dams for the protection of rivers. And how can they, as citizens, make a change?
The Congolese community felt like they have had suffered enough from history.
After a long fruitful discussion, the following recommendations were made:
- Engage with the government, put pressure on the political agenda, have a bottom-up approach.
- There must be transparency on the project and organizations.
- Organize marches, where they claim their rights.
- Use Inga1 and 2 at their full capacities, before launching Inga 3.
- Resolve the lack of electricity in Congo first, before selling electricity abroad.
- Make a petition, memorandum to present at the parliament.
- Engage with communities, advocate for their needs.
- Empower the Congolese who have suffered from history.
- Provide sustainable energy for the lack of electricity in Africa.
- Come together, united as Africans, with activists, communities, organizations, and governments.
- Work with Congolese Human Rights organizations.
In conclusion, the participants were thankful to Africa Unite and International Rivers for creating such an informative platform with informative and engaging speakers. The discussion brought solutions to the Congolese community on how they can be actor of change and brought people together as a unity of the African continent. The dialogue gave birth to critical thinking which brought people to question the political agenda behind the Inga Project which led to the writing of a memorandum which will be given to the parliament, as the voice of people.