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BY JAMES BILAL - 16 Jul 2023

Opinion| Pitfalls of importing hydroelectricity from Uganda over Fula Rapids Power Generation

South Sudan, a nation facing a persistent energy crisis, has been actively seeking ways to alleviate its power shortage. Only 7.74% of the population has access to grid electricity, 7.2% of the households rely on renewable energy for cooking, while the majority of the population relies on traditional biomass for cooking and lighting. One potential solution has been to import hydroelectricity from its neighbouring country, Uganda. However, as South Sudan embarks on this endeavor, concerns are emerging regarding the potential disadvantages of relying heavily on Ugandan hydroelectricity. 

First and foremost, the issue of dependence arises, by relying on imported hydroelectricity, South Sudan would become heavily dependent on Uganda's infrastructure and supply. This dependency carries inherent risks, as any disruptions or instability in Uganda's electricity generation could have severe repercussions on South Sudan's power supply.

The importation of hydroelectricity poses challenges to South Sudan's economic growth and energy security. While the initial costs of infrastructure development may be borne by Uganda, the long-term financial burden of importing electricity falls on South Sudan. This could strain the country's already fragile economy, diverting funds that could be invested in developing its own energy infrastructure or exploring alternative renewable energy sources within its borders.

Another key issue is the lack of control over imported electricity; South Sudan would have limited influence on the pricing and distribution policies set by Uganda, potentially exposing the country to unfair pricing and uncertain supply. This lack of autonomy hampers South Sudan's ability to plan and manage its energy needs effectively, potentially impeding industrial growth and stifling economic progress.

Additionally, the transmission and distribution challenges associated with cross-border electricity imports cannot be overlooked. Establishing and maintaining a reliable transmission infrastructure across national borders can be complex and costly. Any disruptions or technical failures in the transmission lines could result in power outages and system failures, impacting South Sudan's businesses, industries, and ultimately, its citizens.

South Sudan, a nation grappling with chronic energy shortages, should explore an ambitious plan to construct its own hydroelectric power plants. This strategic move will hold significant advantages for the country, promising to address its energy crisis, foster economic development, and promote sustainable energy practices. With its vast potential for renewable energy resources like solar and wind power, South Sudan has an opportunity to develop its own clean energy infrastructure. By relying on Ugandan hydroelectricity, South Sudan misses out on the chance to capitalize on its natural resources and develop a sustainable energy sector that aligns with its own environmental goals.

One of the foremost benefits of constructing its own hydroelectric power plants is energy independence. By harnessing its abundant water resources, South Sudan can reduce its reliance on expensive and unreliable imported electricity, ensuring a stable and consistent power supply. This newfound energy independence enables the country to meet the demands of its growing population, support industrialization, and enhance the overall quality of life for its citizens.

The construction of hydroelectric power plants will also stimulate economic growth and job creation within South Sudan. The project requires significant investments in infrastructure, engineering, and construction, offering employment opportunities to the local population. The development of a domestic hydroelectric sector will attract foreign direct investment, bolstering the country's economy and contributing to the creation of a skilled workforce in the energy sector.

Building its own hydroelectric infrastructure allows South Sudan to capitalize on its natural resources and tap into its renewable energy potential. The country boasts ample rivers and water bodies and the existence of Fulla Rapids presents  valuable opportunities to generate clean and sustainable electricity. By harnessing this potential, South Sudan can minimize its carbon footprint, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.

The benefits of constructing hydroelectric power plants extend beyond energy production. The reservoirs created by these projects can serve as water sources for irrigation, supporting agricultural development and food security. Additionally, the surplus electricity generated can be exported to neighbouring countries, creating opportunities for regional energy cooperation and economic integration.

The construction of domestic hydroelectric infrastructure empowers South Sudan to exercise greater control over its energy policies, pricing, and distribution. By owning and managing its power plants, the country can tailor its energy strategy to meet its specific needs and goals. This level of autonomy enables efficient planning, reliable pricing, and effective management of the energy sector, fostering a conducive environment for business and industrial growth.

Moreover, investing in hydroelectricity development contributes to the long-term sustainability of South Sudan's energy sector. Unlike finite fossil fuel resources, hydroelectric power relies on renewable water resources, ensuring a constant and reliable source of electricity for generations to come. This stability reduces vulnerability to price fluctuations in the global energy market, providing a solid foundation for sustainable economic development and social progress.

In conclusion, South Sudan should revoke its decision to import electricity from Uganda but rather construct its own hydroelectric power plants that can bring forth numerous advantages for the nation. Energy independence, economic growth, job creation, tapping into renewable resources, water supply for agriculture, regional cooperation, enhanced control over energy policies, and long-term sustainability are among the key benefits. By investing in its own hydroelectric infrastructure, South Sudan is paving the way for a brighter and more prosperous future, ensuring a reliable and sustainable energy supply for its citizens while contributing to a greener planet.

The author, James Bilal, is passionate about defending Human Rights and is a researcher. He is currently working as the Coordinator of South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network –SSHRDN. He can be reached via email

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.