Namibia, Angola revive N$22bn Baynes dam interest

881 MW power project resurfaces
The two governments have announced plans to develop a project that caused emotive confrontations in the past.
Augetto Graig
Namibia and Angola have announced plans to resurrect work on the controversial Baynes hydropower project located at the border between the two countries, which will produce 881 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

This after the impact of the project on the environment, and especially the homelands of the Ovahimba people, had been scrutinised in the past.

Namibia’s mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo was with Angola's energy and water minister João Baptista Borges at the Lauca hydroelectric dam in Angola on Monday, during which it was agreed to resume the 881 MW Baynes binational dam and hydropower project on the lower reaches of the Kunene River on the border between the two neighbouring countries.

According to a joint statement issued this week, the decision was already taken on 10 November 2023.

At the start of the project more than four years ago, Republikein reported that the plant is expected to generate 600 MW of electricity, which will be split equally between Namibia and Angola.

According to the two ministers, the project is of strategic importance to both countries, but also to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), especially because Angola is not yet connected to the Southern African Power Grid (SAPP). Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the Angola-Namibia transmission interconnection, known as the ANNA interconnection, be completed as quickly as possible, the statement read.

"The investment plans a transmission network to the Baynes binational hydropower project, which further promotes the connectivity of Angola and Namibia and to the rest of the region, and will provide an additional route for the export of excess power from the Kwanza and Kunene river basins.”

Dragging on

The ministers admitted that the Baynes project has been dragging on for years, with the feasibility study already launched in 2008 and completed in 2014. It was updated again in 2021 and completed this year.

Previously, concerns had been expressed about the project's impact on the environment and on the homelands of the Ovahimba people.

It has now been decided that a joint unit will be established, with head offices either in Windhoek or Luanda and with a satellite office in the other country.

The two governments will establish a joint bank account for the unit, with annual contributions from the countries' national budgets. The updated techno-economic feasibility study of 2023 was approved.

Republikein previously reported that the Ovahimba people argued that they were not involved in the decision-making processes for the project and are concerned that the way they live may be threatened. The failure to consult indigenous communities is a violation of the principle of free, prior and informed consent to which indigenous populations have a right.

Another dam

Meanwhile, it was also agreed that an additional regulating dam - about 12 kilometres downstream and with a generating capacity of 21 MW - will be built. This dam's wall will also serve as a bridge for a road between the neighbouring countries.

The export model for the project is expected to be agreed upon before September. Lawyers representing the two governments must this month already finalise the legal review for the implementation of the agreement.

Before the end of June, Namibia will play host to a meeting that will focus on this, while the agreement should reportedly be signed by July.

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Namibian Sun 2024-07-17

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