Last week Ethiopia inaugurated the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam), whose construction had started in 2011. The dam rises on the side of the Nile, known as the Blue Nile, in the Benishangul-Gumus region, about 30 km from the Ethiopian-Sudan border, where 85% of the river’s water flows. The dam has caused the country several diplomatic problems in the past with the other nations that use the river, Sudan and Egypt. During the inauguration, the Ethiopian Prime Minister reassured that the dam will not compromise the efficiency of the river’s waters.
The dam, which currently produces 375 megawatts, is expected to reach around 5,000 megawatts by 2024 – more than double the amount of energy the country currently produces – bringing electricity to the 60% of the population that does not yet have access to it, the Prime Minister assured during the inauguration.
The dam is also an excellent foreign policy tool for Ethiopia, as the country expects to make about a billion dollars in proceeds from the sale of the dam’s energy to neighbouring countries and beyond. This is the background to the negotiations between Addis Ababa and Nairobi on energy imports. In February, the two East African countries held several meetings to reach an agreement on energy, but there is still no certainty on quantities. However, the two countries have shown goodwill in reaching an agreement, in light of previous energy agreements resulting from technological development in the sector in both countries.
As well as being an economic project, the Kenya-Ethiopia energy deal would also appear to have an overt political intent, as the rulers of both countries see it as a move to stimulate wider economic growth. The region’s energy interconnection would serve as a development model for other countries in the region.