Power from Mozambique's Cahora Bassa Dam is sold to South Africa, while villagers beneath its lines remain unelectrified.

South Africa

South Africa is by far the continent’s leading consumer of electricity. Its national utility, Eskom, controls nearly half of Africa’s entire capacity and sells some of the world’s cheapest power. Since 2006, though, power shortages have rattled the country, shaking what was long seen as a stable giant. Today, South Africa’s power sector is looking to secure new supply, with an overabundance of destructive projects (imported big hydro, coal and nuclear) in the mix, but South Africa has far better options to solve its energy needs. The country has huge scope for money-saving energy efficiency measures while climate-safe, locally distributed power projects could ensure a sustainable energy future, more jobs, and better chances for rural electrification.

Eskom Enterprises in Africa
Eskom Enterprises in Africa
South Africa’s desire to import hydropower could lead to an export of social and environmental problems. Eskom has been a proponent of some high-profile destructive dams outside its borders, including Mozambique’s Mphanda Nkuwa, DRC’s Inga dams, and numerous dams on Angola’s Kwanza River. South Africa’s demands for new hydro imports would come at a major cost to local communities, economies and environments.

Dams are also the wrong answer to climate change. Southern Africa’s rivers are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and healthy, free-flowing rivers will become even more indispensable in a warming Africa.

Many civil society groups are working to press South Africa for a greener, fairer, more climate-ready energy path. International Rivers is working with many of them, and with partners in areas to be dammed for South African supply, to raise awareness about the impacts of damming beyond its borders, and the potential for better alternatives.

More information: 

Latest additions: