Egypt building Tanzanian dam
Ahmed Kotb, Saturday 29 May 2021
Al-Ahram Weekly reports on the construction of the Tanzanian Julius Nyerere Dam, which is being built by Egyptian companies

Egyptian Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities Assem Al-Gazzar led a delegation to inspect work being done on Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere Dam and its hydroelectric power station on Saturday, which is being built by a consortium of Egyptian companies including Arab Contractors and Al-Seweidy Electric.

Al-Gazzar said the visit reflected Egypt’s interest in implementing this national project in Tanzania within the framework of the friendly relations between the two countries. It also reflects Egypt’s interest in developing the Tanzanian economy, given the role the dam will play in providing energy and controlling the flooding of the Rufiji River as well as preserving the environment.

Al-Gazzar was accompanied by the Egyptian ambassador to Tanzania and officials from Egypt and Tanzania, as well as by officials from Arab Contractors and Al-Seweidy Electric.

The dam is being constructed on the Rufiji River and is some 1,025 metres long at the summit and 131 metres high. It has a storage capacity of about 34 billion cubic metres of water and a hydroelectric power station with a capacity of 2,115 Megawatts.

The power station will be the largest in Tanzania, and the energy generated will be transmitted through transmission lines at a voltage of 400 Kilovolts to a substation where it will be integrated into the national electricity grid.

Al-Gazzar said that the most difficult part of the project had been completed, which was diverting the course of the river in preparation for the construction work.

The project also includes the construction of four supplementary dams to form the reservoir, as well as two temporary dams in front and behind the main dam to help in draining and diverting water during the construction. There is a water spillway in the middle of the main dam, an emergency spillway, and two temporary bridges on the Rufiji River.

Tanzanian Minister of Energy Midard Kalimani told the media that the project was very important for the Tanzanian economy and would increase growth rates even before it is completed next year.

Kalimani said cooperation between Tanzania and Egypt was progressing well and hoped it would continue in the future. He added that the work was being done on schedule and that no problems had been encountered.

Ahmed Al-Seweidy, CEO and managing director of Al-Seweidy Electric, said on Saturday in a television interview with Al-Arabiya that the contract for the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station was the largest contract for Egyptian companies in Africa and had a total value of $2.9 billion fully financed by Tanzania’s government.

He added that the main aim of the dam was to generate electricity, in addition to other development goals, and that it should solve Tanzania’s electricity shortages.

The project’s 2,115-Megawatt capacity would secure a clean power supply to more than 60 million Tanzanians, he said. It would support the country’s economy by creating jobs and developing industry that would benefit from the energy produced by the dam.

Al-Gazzar said during his visit to Tanzania that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was following the course of the project, as well as others taking place outside Egypt being implemented by Egyptian companies. He added that the latter had the experience and expertise necessary to work outside Egypt.

Ahmed Al-Assar, deputy chair of the board of Arab Contractors, said the dam project in Tanzania was a major challenge. It was being implemented in a rocky area, necessitating the removal of 2.5 million cubic metres of rock.

The project dates back to August 2017 when Tanzania announced bids for the construction of the dam. In December 2018, the contract was assigned to Arab Contractors and Al-Seweidy Electric at a budgeted cost of $2.9 billion.

In February 2019, the government of Tanzania handed over the construction site to the Egyptian companies selected to build the dam. Construction began in the third quarter of 2019, and the project is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

“The success achieved by the Arab Contractors and Al-Seweidy will encourage other companies to invest and work in African countries by implementing development projects,” said Hassan Abdel-Aziz, head of the African Federation for Construction and Building Contractors.

He added that Egyptian contracting companies were capable of carrying out projects outside the country, and especially in the African states. “Egyptian companies working abroad will have a positive effect on the Egyptian economy and can be important sources of hard currency,” Abdel-Aziz said.

However, they still needed to overcome certain obstacles to work abroad more freely. These included financial burdens related to taxes and insurance. These should be looked at carefully, as should the setting up of Egyptian commercial representation offices abroad.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has said on several occasions that Egypt is willing to help in efforts to develop the African countries, provided that these are environmentally sustainable.

Dams built by Egypt abroad are not mega-dams under the international definition, and they do not exceed a storage capacity of 14 billion cubic metres of water. Dams exceeding this amount require an agreement that may be subject to international law.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 May, 2021 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly