Egypt to take charge of Tanzania dam construction

Egypt and Tanzania recently signed a contract allowing Egyptian companies to build a hydroelectric dam in the African country, which experts say will help boost Egypt’s economy.

al-monitor Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) is received by Tanzania's President John Magufuli at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Aug. 14, 2017.  Photo by REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman.

Dec 26, 2018

Egypt is gaining a foothold in Africa by launching giant developmental projects in the continent in an attempt to restore its leading position in the region and open up a large market that can boost the country’s exports as well as the national economy.

On Dec. 12, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Tanzanian President John Magufuli signed a contract for a major hydroelectric dam project in the Rufiji River Basin in Tanzania.

An Egyptian consortium, consisting of the Arab Contractors company and Elsewedy Electric, has won the tender for building Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric power station at a total cost of $2.9 billion.

Mohsen Salah, an engineer and chairman of Arab Contractors, said in a press statement Dec. 12 after signing the contract, “The dam project comes within the framework of the Tanzanian government's plans to bring about a development renaissance in the country.”

He added that the project is one of the most important national and development projects in Tanzania as it addresses the country’s energy problems and meets its water needs.

Salah also said the project includes the building of a major concrete dam to store the water needed for generating hydroelectric power from the power plant, as well as constructing four more dams to store water and increase the total expected water reserves of Tanzania to 33 billion cubic meters (26.7 million acre-feet).

The project also includes the establishment of a hydroelectric power plant with a total capacity of 2,115 megawatts, a 400-kilovolt substation power station and 400-kilovolt power transmission lines to the nearest public grid, he added.

Diaa el-Kofi, an expert in dam construction, told Al-Monitor that the Egyptian companies won the Stiegler’s Gorge dam contract because Egypt is one of the leading countries in establishing dams. The country has been involved in establishing dams inside and outside Africa, he added, pointing out that Arab Contractors was the main contractor in the establishment of the High Dam built across the Nile in Aswan along with the Russians.

“Egypt's technical and operational experience in the field of dams is exploited by the country to strengthen its presence and role in Africa,” Kofi said, adding that Egypt is restoring its main role in the continent, provided it does not affect Egypt's share of Nile water.

He noted that Tanzania was among the countries that signed the Entebbe agreement in 2010, which also included Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and allowed those countries to start working on river projects without the Egyptian government’s agreement, in reference to the Renaissance Dam.

Egypt and Ethiopia have been at odds over a hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia that is believed to affect Egypt’s share of Nile water.

“Egypt is trying to win over those countries in order to preserve its share of Nile water. That can be achieved by carrying out developmental projects in these African states,” Kofi told Al-Monitor.

Kofi said Egypt has been carrying out developmental projects in African countries in the fields of education, training, health, electricity and water over the past few years. Egypt, he added, is planning to carry out agricultural, health, infrastructure and dam projects in Uganda, Rwanda, Niger, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mauritania.

However, some economists and water experts have raised concerns about Egypt’s ability to compete in the African continent against countries such as China and Turkey, which are heavily investing in the continent.

In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to provide $60 billion in financing to the African continent in the form of assistance, investment and loans.

The Chinese president made the announcement during a gathering of African leaders in Beijing. Three years ago, the Chinese president also pledged $60 billion in investments to Africa.

According to the Atlantic Council in Turkey, Turkey’s investments in Africa have been growing significantly in recent years. Since 2013, bilateral trade between Turkey and Africa has increased to stand at $17.5 billion, while total Turkish investments in Africa stand at around $7 billion.

“Egypt cannot compete in terms of financial resources, but it has longtime experience in the fields of electricity, the establishment of dams, construction and agriculture. Egypt can be very distinguished in this regard over other countries like Turkey, France and Italy,” Ahmed el-Shami, an economist and professor of feasibility studies at Ain Shams University, told Al-Monitor.

Shami added that Egypt is very close to the peoples of Africa and holds a very unique position in the continent. “That is a privilege that distinguishes Egypt from other countries investing in the African continent,” the economist said.

“An Italian company undertook the establishment of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and should have finalized it in 2019. Now, Ethiopia is announcing that it would complete the establishment of the dam in 2020,” Kofi said.

“This proves that south-to-south cooperation is more successful than north-to-south cooperation,” he added.

Egypt is also looking forward to boosting exports to Africa and creating job opportunities for young Egyptians with the launch of such developmental projects. “With having such projects in Africa, Egypt is exporting its equipment, products as well as workers. This approach will be of huge benefit to the African countries as well as to Egypt’s economy,” Shami said.

During an African investment forum, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that Egypt’s investments in Africa increased by $1.2 billion to stand at $10.2 billion in 2018. 

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