Hydropower in Somalia

Richard McNitzky
May 25, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: The Juba River which flows through Somalia, contributes to hydropower there. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On the East Coast of Africa lies what some scientists say is an unknown treasure, the country of Somalia. The African country of Somalia is located along the Indian Sea, and has been home to political instability and conflict for years. As a result many of its resources are largely untapped. Of these opportunities is the large potential for growth in the energy sector. Although forests currently supply 90% of the country's overall energy demand, experts believe that hydropower could provide the country with a commercial source of energy. Hydropower can be generated from a Dam on the upper Juba river (see Fig. 1). Although its landscape is predominantly arid, Somalia is home to a few larger rivers, most notably being the Juba river as mentioned earlier. Due to these underutilized rivers, attention has been shifted to the potential hydropower that could be derived and used throughout the country. [1]


There are three different basins that are each partly located within Somalia. The Shabelle Basin, the Juba Basin, and Lag the Dera Basin all are components of Somalia, but more importantly are home to Somalia's two predominant rivers, the Shabelle and the Juba Rivers. These rivers, who flow downstream into Somalia from Ethiopia make it possible for Somalia to sustain some agricultural providing food and partial economic gain for the country. With the presence of these two flowing water sources, efforts have been directed towards and made in hopes of providing the country with hydropower. Currently Somalia only has one Dam that is being used to generate power, and that is the Fanole Dam which was constructed back in the late 1970s with the help of China. Additional efforts were put in place to further extract the available hydropower in Somalia including the proposed construction of a much bigger Dam in Bardhere; however, despite its initiation, it was never implemented. [1]

The Future

As of recent 2000's, 97.1% of Somalia's energy was sourced from fossil fuels. The rest is from hydropower. Although only making up roughly 3%, experts have continued to express their optimism about the potential of hydropower in Somalia. With only a single Dam constructed, Somalia's hydropower efforts have definitely been slowed which is due to civil conflict, and instability throughout the region. However, as the political situation in Somalia continues to make strides, efforts towards introducing new Dams such as the on in Bardhere can be expected. It is imperative to note that an estimated 100 to 120 MW of hydropower is said to be available in Somalia, yet the country is currently only extracting 4% of it. [2] This knowledge alone provides a promising insight to the upcoming shift to hydropower that can be expected in Somalia. As experts from the International Monetary Fund have noted, Somalia has made remarkable progress towards becoming a more stable and sturdy nation. It is only a matter of time until either the government, or a private outside company come in and make use of Somalia's apparent ability to supply hydropower. [3]

© Richard McNitzky. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. E. Mohamed, "Managing Shared Basins in the Horn of Africa - Ethiopian Projects on the Juba and Shabelle Rivers and Downstream Effects in Somalia," Nat. Resour. Cons. 1, No. 2, 34 (2013).

[2] H. Liu, D. Msera, and L. Esser, eds. "World Small Hydropower Development Report 2013," United Nations Industrial Development Organization (2013).

[3] S. Momodu, "Somalia Rising From the Ashes," Africa Renewal 30, No.1, 36 (April 2016).