Powering development, stabilization and conservation?

The impact of electricity roll-out by Virunga Alliance in Eastern Congo

We measure the impact of electricity provision on economic development, security and conservation. Our case study focuses on rural and urban communities nearby Virunga National Park, in North-Kivu, DR Congo. Impoverished by two decades of armed conflict, the communities complement their livelihoods with the park's resources to make ends meet. These resources are also illicitly exploited by at least eight armed groups that have their hideouts within the park's boundaries. The electricity rollout is implemented by Virunga Alliance, a public-private partnership that seeks to bring about security and conservation through development. According to Virunga's theory of change, electrification will spur development, which will in turn reduce people's reliance on the park's resources as well as their support for, and participation in, rebel groups. The theory of change finds support in the literature, but needs further testing. To learn about the causal effect of electrification, we designed an impact evaluation that exploits the gradual rollout of electricity, in combination with a difference-in-differences estimation. The treatment localities will be connected in the period 2019-2020; the control localities only at a later stage.

This research is coordinated by Nik Stoop and Marijke Verpoorten.

The intervention

Virunga Alliance will roll out 100 megawatts (MW) electricity over a multi-year period. Currently, about 10% of the targeted 100 MW is being generated by two hydropower plants: Mutwanga I and Matebe, located in the territories of Beni and Rutshuru (see Figure 1). Three plants with a combined capacity of 40MW will become operational in the period 2019-2020. With the additional 40MW, Virunga Alliance aims to reach an estimated 250,000 rural inhabitants and 500,000 urban inhabitants in the two-year period between January 2019 and December 2020. In the longer term, four additional hydropower plants with a combined capacity of about 50MW are scheduled to be constructed, bringing the total estimated number of inhabitants in the rural and urban catchment area to 500,000 and 1 million, respectively.

Notes: The panel on the top left shows the map of the DR Congo, with the province of North-Kivu indicated in orange. The Panel on the bottom left zooms in on North-Kivu, with the Virunga national park indicated in green. The map on the right indicates the four study areas, and the approximate location of the existing and future powerplants, as well as their capacity. Click image for larger version.

Project Coordinators