Julius Nyerere Dam: A Mega Project for Africa Soon to Be Operational

The Julius Nyerere Hydroelectric Power Project (JNHPP), one of Tanzania’s mega projects, is to be completed and commissioned by mid-February 2024. Under construction since 2019, it aims to produce 5,920 GWh of electricity annually, in addition to improving overall water management. Even more impressive, the 94%-completed project is truly an all African project. Financed by the Tanzanian government, its major contractors are two Egyptian firms, El-Sewedy Electric, a private multinational electro-engineering corporation, and the Egyptian government-owned Arab Contractors Company.

The JNHPP has the full backing of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has called upon the Egyptian companies to assure the highest quality of work because the project not only represents “a dream” of the Tanzanian people, but also Egypt’s commitment to the development of its African partners.

At a meeting on Dec. 27 with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, the CEO of El-Sewedy Electric, Ahmed El-Sewedy, said the dam is currently undergoing testing, and work is underway to establish an industrial zone covering an area of 2.5 million square meters of Dar es Salaam. For his part, Prime Minister Madbouly reiterated Cairo’s intention to cooperate with the rest of Africa in implementing development projects.

Built across the Rufiji River at the cost of $2.9 billion, the 1,025-meter long dam has a storage capacity of about 34 billion cubic meters of water, which will also serve to control flooding and improve agriculture. It will be the fourth largest dam in Africa and the ninth in the world. The installed electricity capacity of 2,115 MW will more than double the country’s current capacity of 1,605 MW, allowing for the full electrification of the country. The nine turbines were installed by China’s Dongfang Electric company, which also installed the turbines in China’s Three Gorges Dam.

Although the project has been in the planning for decades, international financial institutions such as the World Bank have refused to put up the necessary funds, citing the claim that there was no great demand for electricity in Tanzania! That, although only 40% of the 63 million Tanzanians currently have access to electricity. That will change in a very short time, if all goes as planned.

In addition to the financing, the other main obstacle came from the environmental NGOs (“no good organizations” in this case), which were protesting because the Rufiji river basin is part of the Selous Game Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site. With a total area of 50,000 square kilometers, the site is 20 times larger than the nation of Luxembourg, and is named after British big game hunter Frederick Selous. The name will soon be changed to the more appropriate Julius Nyerere National Park, after the founding president of Tanzania.

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