Rufiji Dam Egyptian Projects in the Heart of Africa


Stiegler's Gorge Dam, Rufiji Dam or Nyerere Dam are all different names for one of the largest dams in Africa that is currently being constructed on the Rufiji River in Tanzania with Egyptian arms, a joint venture implemented by a consortium made up of the Arab Contractors and the Elsewedy Electric. The consortium was awarded a tender to establish the hydropower dam on Tanzania's Rufiji River in 2018, provided that the project will be completed and the dam will be

inaugurated in 2022.

Tanzania Dam from Concept to Implementation

The idea of constructing a dam on the Rufiji River in Tanzania dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century. The first study of the dam was conducted in 1940.This study envisaged building a small-sized dam to control floods in the area and protect the irrigation infrastructure.  However, by 1961 the FAO published a study that included the possibility of establishing a larger dam that aims to generate electricity and turn the area into an industrial environment in addition to controlling floods and providing irrigation and drinking water.

After the independence of Tanganyika in 1961, President Nyerere saw the hydroelectric dams as an opportunity to develop Tanzania and a move towards industrialization with cheap electricity to get out of the economic crisis. This has prompted him to search for an external source to finance the dam. However, implementation did not take place due to the World Bank's refusal to finance the project.  The World Bank view that the growth of electricity demand in Tanzania is limited and there is no need to build a dam, in addition to the growing environmental concerns around the project. Then matters became worse after UNESCO had declared the area a natural reserve and a world heritage site in 1982, which led to further complications in obtaining international funding.

In spite of this, the successive governments of Tanzania haven't lost hope in searching for a financier and developing the dam's plans as a savior for the country from the acute energy crisis. The Tanzanian governments that followed Nyerere placed it at the top of their priorities for economic growth in the country. Many international companies have expressed their interest in financing and implementing the Tanzania dam, the last of which was a Brazilian company that negotiated for 3 years with the Tanzanian government from 2009 to 2012, and was expected to implement it. However, by 2014, talks of the dam stopped for reasons that have not been announced. By 2017, President Magufuli's government announced that the Tanzania Dam project would be a national project and would be funded by the government rather than resorting to an external financier.

Egyptian companies win the bids to construct the Stiegler Dam

The Tanzanian government proposed a tender for the construction of the dam. A group of companies from various countries of the world competed for it, including “Egyptian”, “Chinese”, “Turkish”, “Brazilian” and “Lebanese” companies.  The Egyptian consortium of the two companies, “Arab Contractors and Swedi Electric” won the tender, provided that the two companies operate under the supervision of the Engineering Authority of the Egyptian Armed Forces, at the request of the Tanzanian President “Magufuli” and with the direct support of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and the contract was signed in December 2018 in the presence of the President of Tanzania and the Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Mostafa Madbouly.

In a related context, the Arab Contractors Company is operating in 20 African countries, including Uganda, Cameroon and Ethiopia, through road and infrastructure projects in addition to other development projects.

Tanzanian Dam Specifications

The agreement between the Tanzanian government and the Egyptian coalition included the construction of a 134-meter-high concrete dam that includes 9 turbines, with a capacity of 235 megawatts for the turbine, with a total capacity of 2115 megawatts, in addition to 4 subsidiary dams, permanent roads linking the site to the current road network with a length of about 21 km, and temporary ones for service with a length of about 59 km, a 400-kilovolt sub-station, electrical transmission lines, in addition to a 660-meter-long river diversion tunnel and a spillway in the middle of the main dam consisting of seven sector gates and an emergency spillway on the first sub-dam without Gates, permanent concrete bridge on Rufiji River, and an integrated residential complex of 19,000 square meters. The volume of water stored in the project lake is about 33 billion cubic meters, at a cost of $ 2.9 billion.

In addition to the above, the dam project is located on an area of about 1,350 km, and it is expected to be completed within 42 months. The dam will be implemented in two phases, the first phase includes preparing the project site and training workers which lasts for 6 months, while the second phase represents the actual duration of the project implementation and its duration is 3 Years. The project will be completed in 2022, to become the fourth largest dam in Africa, and one of the largest in the world.

Why Tanzania is resorting to constructing the Stiegler Dam

The most prominent benefits for Tanzania from the construction of the Stiegler Dam are to control severe droughts and seasonal floods that the country is exposed to and which destroy tens of lives and thousands of homes annually. The dam ensures the constant availability of water throughout the year for agriculture and drinking purposes, in addition to generating the electricity it needs. Tanzania is to meet the growing local needs for citizens' consumption, as only 10% of the population is connected to the national electricity grid, while the dam can provide electricity to the 17 million Tanzanian families. The dam will help Tanzania in the transition towards industrialization, which the Magufuli government sees as the savior of the Tanzanian economy. It will lead to improving the living standards of citizens, and strengthening the Tanzanian economy in the medium and long terms. Therefore, the government of Tanzania considers the Stiegler Dam project a national project that is difficult to concede under any pressure.

The project also aims to provide job opportunities for Tanzanians, as the number of workers in the dam is expected to reach 12,000 workers.

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