08.03.2021. Congolese entrepreneur Vouala Obambi, Managing Director of ENERGAZ (a SAPRO group company) has a vision for the future: leading change. As the only woman manager of an electricity production company in the Republic of Congo and the youngest in Africa, Ms. Obambi is participating in a call for tenders for the operation of the Liouesso hydroelectric power plant.
Located in the department of Sangha, in the north of the Republic of Congo, the Liouesso dam has a capacity of 19.8 megawatts (MW), which is output by three turbines. It is the third hydroelectric dam in Congo built with the support of Chinese cooperation, after those of Moukoukoulou (74 MW) and Imboulou (120 MW).
With this project, Congo's energy capacity has increased from 89 MW in 2000 to more than 590 MW at present. A network of energy transmission and distribution accompanies the dam.
65% of the Republic of Congo is covered by forests. Its hydrographic network is very dense with abundant rainfall ranging from 1600 to 2000 mm3 /year, which gives it a high hydroelectric potential estimated at 4000MW. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), however, the rate of electricity supply to the population is still low, particularly in rural areas, 15%, which explains its high expenditure on wood energy, 90% of which is used to meet household energy needs.
For INTERHOLCO, whose IFO production site is also located in the Sangha, an electrification project from the Liouesso dam would represent a major turning point. Whilst a power network already connects the Liouesso dam to the city of Ouesso (in blue, above), IFO is working closely with the authorities of the Sangha department in order to have the network extended to Ngombé (in yellow, above). IFO could thus obtain clean energy and reduce CO2 emissions at the same time. Energy that will be used for the protection of the forest, which IFO manages responsibly, as well as for global climate protection.
Water and energy, too, are essential for responsible forest management. But the forest, Congo's true natural capital, will not be the only winner. The permanent supply of electricity will also allow human capital to flourish.
On this International Women's Day, we are pleased to present Ms. Obambi's vision for the future.
INTERHOLCO: Ms. Obambi, how does ENERGAZ intend to increase the power generation capacity in Congo through the Liouesso dam?
Vouala OBAMBI: Initially, ENERGAZ will rehabilitate the Liouesso hydroelectric power station. For reasons mainly linked to technical difficulties, the power station is currently operating under a sub regime. As a result, less than one third of the actual capacity is produced there. The rehabilitation of the power plant will make it possible to make better use of its production capacity, enabling it to reach an output of almost 20 MW. The second phase will involve the construction of new power lines, some of which will be connected to the country's main energy boulevard in order to be able to transport more electricity to areas that do not have any.
INTERHOLCO: As an entrepreneur, what impetus would you like to give to Congo's socio-economic activities? What is the role of women in this regard?
Vouala OBAMBI: At the socio-economic level, the role of women should be the same as that of men. However, the reality is quite different in the majority of countries in the world and even more so in a developing country like the Republic of Congo. Things are fortunately changing! As the only woman manager of an electricity production company in Congo and the youngest in Africa, I hope that this alone, reinforced by the achievements of my company ENERGAZ, will already be synonymous with mentality change. The energy sector does not belong exclusively to men and I also hope to inspire other women. Women do have a place and an important role to play, right up to the highest positions. Diversity in a company is a richness and an asset. In order to encourage it, the laws, the economy and also society must allow career women to play their roles in the plurality that defines them in society and in the company. In Congo Brazzaville it is no longer impossible, but it is still extremely difficult, to be a leader, wife and mother in ideal conditions, without prejudice. The question does not arise with regard to male leaders, husbands and fathers.
INTERHOLCO: Ms. Obambi, why is the Liouesso dam a godsend for the region?
Vouala OBAMBI: Before coming to Congo Brazzaville, I lived for more than 30 years in Europe and worked for 10 years in London without ever experiencing a single power cut. In Congo, access to electricity remains so limited that there are many power cuts on a daily basis and there are still many areas where electricity is still inaccessible. Access to energy (in Europe, Africa and everywhere else) is nevertheless a fundamental need for everyone and an indispensable tool for the smooth running of businesses, factories, etc. Electrification is a source of job creation, access to modernity, access to better health, through better preservation of food and hospital equipment. In terms of the impact on businesses, electrification enables greater productivity to meet local, regional and global demand, but above all, it allows companies to remain competitive.
INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82