The construction of the biggest dam in Africa is creating friction
The Nile River’s water flow will soon be dominated by human hands as Ethiopia is constructing the biggest dam in Africa on one of its core arteries: the Blue Nile.
The Nile is vital for the survival of the countries down its path. Now that Ethiopia has the power to cut one of its flows, this conflict specifically targets Egypt and Sudan, who historically rely on the Nile’s yearly water cycles to sustain themselves.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a nation-defining opening for Ethiopia. The opportunities that it will bring to this poverty-stricken country is immeasurable as it will produce a reliable source of income and jobs for Ethiopians.
Also, according to the World Bank, only 45 percent of Ethiopians have access to electricity. This dam will be able to offer service for all Ethiopians with enough leftover energy to offer surrounding countries. So, for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, this strengthens his resolve to complete the construction of the dam.
For Egypt and Sudan, the consequences of Ethiopia’s control over the Blue Nile are dire. According to Al-Jazeera, Egypt gets about 90 per cent of its fresh water from the river, and the Blue Nile contributes to 85 per cent of the Nile’s water flow.
Even partially cutting water supply from the Blue Nile could have catastrophic effects for the over 140 million Egyptian and Sudanese people.
Since 2011, negotiations have been ongoing between the three countries to reach a consensus, but Ethiopia has been shrewd throughout. For Ahmed, keeping up with a bigger country like Egypt is a show of strength for the Ethiopians. According to The Week, Ahmed has the intention to mobilize troops if push comes to shove.
Even with the mediation of the African Union, currently led by South Africa, the negotiations have not progressed.
Ethiopia is still proceeding forward with the dam’s construction, disregarding Egypt and Sudan’s fragile water supply.
Recently, Ethiopia has banned flight activities over the dam’s construction site for security reasons, according to The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority. Ethiopia’s reluctance to give further details will put yet another dent in the everlasting negotiations.
Ahmed said last month at the United Nations that Ethiopia has no intention to harm Egypt and Sudan, but the targeted countries have continued to voice their concerns.
However, the Ethiopian government officially announced that it has every intention to start generating power with GERD’s two established turbines this year.
They are committed to completing this project, even if agreements have not yet been met. This leaves Egypt and Sudan in suspense; will there be a way for them to reach an agreement, or will the dam be completed beforehand?
Graphic by @the.beta.lab