Posts List


  • Now Experts Say Ethiopia’s GERD Dam Could Benefit All
    Now Experts Say Ethiopia’s GERD Dam Could Benefit All

    The construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of immense pride and hope for the Ethiopian people. For years, they have been working tirelessly towards this project, with the aim of generating much-needed electricity to power their country’s growth and development.

    And now, as experts predict that the GERD dam will be a potential boon for all, the Ethiopian people can’t help but feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. They know that this project has the power to transform their country’s economy, create job opportunities for their citizens, and provide clean, renewable energy to the entire region.

    But it’s not just the people of Ethiopia who stand to benefit from the GERD dam. Experts believe that the project could have positive impacts on the entire region, from Egypt to Sudan and beyond. By harnessing the power of the Nile River, the GERD dam could potentially provide a new source of energy for millions of people, help to alleviate poverty, and promote economic growth.

    Of course, there are still challenges to be faced along the way. Negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the distribution of Nile water have been ongoing for years, and tensions between the three countries have occasionally flared up. But despite these challenges, the people of Ethiopia remain optimistic about the future.

    For them, the GERD dam represents more than just a new source of electricity. It represents hope for a brighter, more prosperous future – not just for themselves, but for the entire region. And as the project moves ever closer to completion, that hope only grows stronger.

    The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, has been dogged by controversy ever since construction started on the $4 billion (€3.6 billion) mega project in 2011.

    Above all, the two neighboring downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan have expressed worries that the dam could lead to reduced water flow in the Nile River, causing increased water scarcity — a major issue in a region that suffers acutely from droughts and negative effects of climate change.

    Now, 12 years on, Ethiopia’s Office of National Coordination has announced that the hydroelectric power dam has been 90% completed. 

    For Ethiopia, the dam will make a huge difference. The government expects it will generate up to 6,500 megawatts of electricity, doubling the annual national electricity output. This will enable 60% of the population that is not yet connected to the grid to gain access to reliable power.

    Ethiopia’s neighbor Sudan, which draws two-thirds of its water supplies from the Nile and regularly suffers from massive flooding during the rainy season, had first criticized the project from the start. Now, however, it seems to have changed its view amid hopes that the dam will help to regulate the annual floods.

    In January, Sudan’s de facto leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, told Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, that the two countries were “aligned and in agreement on all issues regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

    Egypt, which was also an early critic of the project, has, however, not changed its mind, maintaining that the dam on the Blue Nile, the River Nile’s main tributary, will jeopardize its water supply. 

    Around 97% of Egypt’s population of 106 million people live along the River Nile and depend on it as a source of fresh water. There is also a deep-lying emotional aspect at play in the country’s criticism of the project, as the river has always been considered Egypt’s lifeline. 

    In mid-March, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sahme Shoukry told local media that “all options are open, all alternatives remain available” in the context of the dam’s upcoming completion, which is being closely followed by Egypt.

    Egypt’s warning came despite the fact that it has found a solution to make up for the loss of water caused by the filling of the GERD water reservoir, which started in 2020: Egypt has directed more water from Lake Nasser, the water reservoir of Egypt’s own hydropower Aswan High Dam, into the Nile.

    The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: A never-ending saga

    From corruption and mismanagement to a looming diplomatic crisis: Construction on Ethiopia’s mammoth dam has been far from smooth sailing.

    Image: DW/M. Gerth-Niculescu

    A concrete colossus

    At 145 meters high and almost two kilometers long, the Grand Renaissance Dam is expected to become Ethiopia’s biggest source of electricity. As Africa’s largest hydroelectric power dam, it will produce more than 15,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity, beginning in 2022. It will source water from Africa’s longest river, the Blue Nile.

    Image: DW/M. Gerth-Niculescu

    The outlook so far

    With more than 50% of Ethiopians still living without electricity, the government wants the dam to be up and running as soon as possible, so tens of millions of residents will be able to access power. The first of a total of 13 turbines is due to be operational by mid-2021.

    Image: DW/M. Gerth-Niculescu

    A long time in the making

    Construction on the current dam began in 2011 — but the site was identified between 1956 and 1964. The coup of 1974 meant the project failed to progress, and it was not until 2009 that plans for the dam were resurrected. The $4.6 billion (€4.1 billion) project has consistently been the source of serious regional controversy, with its plan to source water from the Blue Nile.

    Transforming the landscape

    In a few years, this entire area will be covered in water. The reservoir which is needed to generate electricity is expected to hold 74 billion cubic meters of water. Ethiopia wants to fill the artificial lake as soon as possible, but neighboring countries are concerned about the impact this might have on their own water supplies.

    Diplomatic deadlock

    Egypt, in particular, fears that filling the reservoir too quickly will threaten their water supply and allow Ethiopia to control the flow of the Blue Nile. Ethiopia is insisting on having the reservoir filled in seven years. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday, to discuss the matter.

    No solution in sight

    However, two days of negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in Washington over the weekend failed to solve the reservoir issue, despite the US stepping in to mediate. With no progress over the last four years, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed even called on South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa — and the 2020 chairperson of the African Union — to intervene in the dispute.

    Back-breaking work

    Amidst the heated negotiations, up to 6,000 employees are still working around the clock to get the dam completed by the deadline. The working conditions are not for the faint-hearted: In the hottest months, temperatures on the construction site can reach up to 50 degrees.

    Project mired in corruption

    Over the years, construction was also delayed significantly due to ongoing corruption and mismanagement issues. Last month, 50 people were charged with severe graft offenses relating to the dam, including the former CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP).

    Military conflict off the table

    Despite the criticisms still coming from Egypt, researchers now tend to rule out a military conflict between it and Ethiopia over the GERD. 

    “The window for any possible attack on the dam has closed, given the fact that the reservoir is nearly full,” Timothy Kaldas, deputy director of the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told DW. 

    An attack on the dam at this point would result in massive flooding of Sudan’s Blue Nile River. “This is something that the Egyptians will certainly not pursue,” Kaldas said. Egypt and Sudan are regional allies. 

    Jemima Oakey, an Amman-based researcher of water and food security in the Middle East and an associate at the London-based consultant firm Azure Strategy, agrees. She told DW that “launching a militarized offensive, which Egypt lacks the economic resources and geopolitical backing to do, would be neither justifiable nor in Egypt’s interests, as there is also no guarantee that any conflict would leave its water situation improved.”

    GERD’s regional implications

    “The dam project in Ethiopia is an illustrative example of the extent to which national modernization projects and environmental dependencies are simultaneously reinforced by the constant threat of climate change,” Tobias Zumbrägel, a researcher focused on the impact of climate change on the Middle East at the Germany’s University of Heidelberg, told DW.

    “We are longer just talking about a water problem, which is a major problem in itself, but we are also talking about the fact that an entire region is actually under threat of becoming more destabilized,” he added.

    For example, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have reiterated their willingness to back Egypt in demanding sufficient water supply from Ethiopia.

    Egypt, however, has repeatedly accused Israel of working against its interests when it comes to the GERD, despite the otherwise solid bilateral relations between the two countries, which signed a peace agreement in 1979.

    Israel and Ethiopia also have close diplomatic ties.  

    Scientific solutions

    Researchers point out that there are political and scientific ways to settle the situation. 

    “Egypt’s and Sudan’s most pragmatic, cost-effective and peaceful option is to set up a data-sharing agreement with Ethiopia to manage the water flows from the dam,” Jemima Oakey told DW. Such an agreement could include guaranteed water releases during times of drought. “It would build trust, promote cooperation and allow for sustainable and careful multilateral management of the Nile’s flows,” she said. 

    However, since construction started in 2011, Ethiopia has repeatedly rejected such options, as well as other forms of political agreements.

    Hagen Koch, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in his turn, pins his hopes on a scientific approach. “Great benefits could be derived if Egypt’s Aswan High Dam and Ethiopia’s GERD were operated together,” he told DW. 

    “The GERD is located in the highlands; the Aswan High Dam is on a much lower altitude where temperatures are higher,” he told DW, adding that Aswan’s water reservoir Lake Nasser is also four times larger than the reservoir of the GERD.

    “If you manage this sensibly and store more water in the GERD than in Lake Nasser, you will have lower evaporation losses, and thus both countries would have more water available for their respective hydropower generation.” 

    It remains to be seen whether by the time of the dam’s completion in 2024 or 2025 — depending on the amount of rainfall during the rainy season — any agreement will be reached.

    Edited by: Timothy Jones


  • Opinion Piece: Unleashing the Potential of GERD for Economic and Social Advancement in Somalia and Somaliland
    Opinion Piece: Unleashing the Potential of GERD for Economic and Social Advancement in Somalia and Somaliland


    The construction of the Ethiopia Renaissance Dam has been a topic of controversy in the Horn of Africa region, with concerns raised about its potential impact on downstream countries such as Egypt and Sudan.

    However, there are also opportunities for neighboring countries such as Somalia and Somaliland to benefit from the dam’s electricity generation capacity. This article will explore the potential economic and social benefits of access to cheap electricity from Ethiopia for the neighboring Republic of Somalia and the Republic of Somaliland, as well as the challenges that must be overcome in order to realize these benefits.

    Electric Access and Cost in Somalia and Somaliland

    Somalia and Somaliland are both countries with limited access to electricity. According to the World Bank, only 15% of Somalia’s population has access to grid electricity, while in Somaliland the figure is around 30%. The lack of reliable electricity hinders economic development and limits access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and their countries’ potential for industrialization.

    The cost of electricity in Somalia and Somaliland is currently very high, with some estimates putting it at $0.73 per kilowatt hour. In contrast, the cost of electricity in Ethiopia is much lower, at around $0.06 per kilowatt hour. This is due in part to the country’s investment in hydroelectric power generation, including the Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. Access to cheap electricity from Ethiopia could bring significant economic benefits to Somalia and Somaliland, including increased industrialization and job creation.

    Economic and social benefits of access to cheap electricity

    Access to cheap electricity from Ethiopia could have a transformative effect on Somalia and Somaliland’s economies. Investment in infrastructure, such as manufacturing plants and transportation networks, could help jumpstart economic growth and create jobs. Cheap electricity could also lower the cost of doing business in these countries, making them more attractive to investors. In addition to the economic benefits, cheap electricity could also improve access to essential services such as healthcare and education. Hospitals and clinics could operate more effectively with reliable electricity, and schools and universities could provide students with access to technology and other resources.

    Challenges and Solutions

    There are several challenges that must be overcome in order to realize the benefits of accessing cheap electricity in Ethiopia. One of the main challenges is the lack of infrastructure in Somalia and Somaliland, including transmission lines and distribution networks. The investment will be needed in these areas in order to connect the countries to the Ethiopian grid. Another challenge is the political instability and insecurity in Somalia and parts of Somaliland, which could deter investors. Furthermore, many private companies have invested in electric service provision in both countries. They should be included in all discussions, giving priority to the country’s advantage in using cheaper costs, reducing dependency on diesel-powered services, and attracting investors to benefit from the cheap labor and strategies of the locations to export their products beyond Somalia and Somaliland. A public partnership discussed below might be an ideal solution to consider in the effort to realize their partnership.

    Why should Somalia and Somaliland support Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam Project?

    To overcome these challenges, there will need to be a coordinated effort between the governments of Somalia, Somaliland, and Ethiopia, as well as private investors and international organizations. The construction of transmission lines and distribution networks will require significant investment, but the potential economic benefits make it a worthwhile endeavor.

    Why should Somalia and Somaliland support Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam Project?

    Access to cheap electricity from the Ethiopia Renaissance Dam could bring significant benefits to both Somalia and Somaliland, which should encourage their support for the project. Here are some additional points to consider:

    • Regional Stability: The Renaissance Dam has the potential to be a catalyst for regional stability and cooperation. By providing access to electricity for multiple countries, the dam could promote economic growth and reduce tensions in the region.
    • Energy Security: Access to cheap, renewable energy from Ethiopia could increase energy security for Somalia and Somaliland. Dependence on imported, fossil-fuel-based energy sources carries the risk of price volatility and supply disruptions, which could be mitigated by access to hydropower from Ethiopia.
    • Climate Change: As climate change continues to accelerate, access to renewable energy sources such as hydropower will become increasingly important. Supporting the Renaissance Dam project aligns with the global push towards decarbonization and mitigating the effects of climate change.
    • Job Creation: As mentioned earlier, increased electricity access could lead to increased industrialization and job creation in Somalia and Somaliland. This would be a welcome development for economies that have struggled with unemployment and low growth rates.
    • Economic Integration: The Renaissance Dam project could open up opportunities for economic integration between Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland. As businesses benefit from the cheap electricity and transportation links improve, trade and investment could accelerate between the countries.

    Public-Private Partnership in Electricity Supply:

    Public-private partnerships (PPPs) offer a unique opportunity to leverage the strengths of both the public and private sectors in the development of electricity infrastructure and supply. PPPs can bring together the financial resources and technical capabilities of private companies with the institutional capacity and regulatory oversight of governments.

    One example of a successful PPP in electric supply is the partnership between Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) and the Gulf Energy Corporation (GEC). KPLC, the state-owned electricity utility in Kenya, partnered with GEC to construct and operate an 80 MW power plant in Nairobi. The power plant helped to expand electricity access in the country and improve reliability of supply, while also creating jobs and generating economic growth.

    There are several benefits to PPPs in electric supply, including:

    • Increased Investment: PPPs can attract new sources of private investment, enabling more rapid and efficient development of electricity infrastructure and supply.
    • Better Risk Management: Through PPPs, risks associated with electricity projects can be allocated to the party best suited to manage them, whether the public or private sector.
    • Improved Efficiency: The expertise and innovation of the private sector can help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of electricity projects, allowing for the delivery of better services at lower costs.
    • Increased Accountability: PPPs can help to improve transparency and accountability in the electricity sector, by introducing private sector disciplines and performance metrics.
    • Job Creation and Economic Growth: The development of electricity infrastructure and supply through PPPs can lead to the creation of jobs and the stimulation of economic growth, particularly in rural and underdeveloped areas.

    By considering this option, the existing companies in electric services in Somaliland and Somalia can benefit from it, while the existing infrastructure will be maintained to ensure the availability of alternative power sources that can be used during emergencies.


    In summary, the benefits of accessing hydropower-generated electricity from Ethiopia are numerous and would likely bring economic, social, and environmental benefits to both Somalia and Somaliland. By supporting the Renaissance Dam project, they would also be supporting regional stability, energy security, job creation, economic integration, and climate change mitigation efforts.

    Access to cheap electricity from Ethiopia could be a game-changer for Somalia and Somaliland, bringing significant economic and social benefits to both countries. However, there are substantial challenges that must be addressed in order to make this a reality. With suitable investments in infrastructure and a commitment to political stability, the potential benefits of the Ethiopia Renaissance Dam could be realized for the greater good of the region.

    Editor’s Note: Ali Regah is a WASH Coordinator, Somaliland/Somalia at Oxfam Novib. He can be reached at

Latest News

east africa news
Send this to a friend