Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed officially launched the power generation of the Great Nile Dam on Sunday 20 February 2022.
Initiated in 2011, it has taken more than 10 years for Ethiopia to officially start the process of generating electricity from the large dam on the Nile in the far west of the country. It was during a tour of the power station on Sunday that Abiy Ahmed clicked a series of switches on an electronic screen to trigger production. When it was first launched, each civil servant was asked to contribute one month’s salary to the financing of the dam. As a result, many public loans were also sought. The delay in the work has created a big loss for the Ethiopians. But Ethiopia’s prime minister has managed these losses.
One of Africa’s largest dams.
Located on the Blue Nile, about 30 kilometres from the Sudanese border, the Grand Renaissance Dam is 1.8 kilometres long and 145 metres high. This dam is announced as one of the largest in Africa with an initial production target of 6500 megawatts. Its production is revised downwards to 5,000 MW. The total cost of the project is estimated by the experts at USD 4.2 billion.
With these 5,000 MW, it is possible to triple electricity production and continue the industrialisation of the country. They will also bring in foreign exchange through the export of electricity. This has already been agreed with Djibouti, Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania.
According to AFP, a second turbine should be up and running within a few months, and the whole dam will be fully operational by 2024.
It should be noted that although this dam was created by Ethiopians, it serves the entire African continent.
The Gerd, a dispute with Sudan and Egypt.
Since 2011, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) has been in dispute with Sudan and Egypt, both of which depend on the Nile for their water resources. Egypt’s capital claims a historical right to the river. This right is guaranteed by a treaty signed between Egypt and Sudan, then represented by the United Kingdom. Indeed, after an agreement with Khartoum on water sharing in 1959, Egypt was allocated a quota of 66% of the annual flow of the Nile, against 22% for Sudan. This allocation gave it a veto over the construction of projects on the river.
As Ethiopia does not participate in these agreements, it has never considered itself bound by them.
In 2010, a new treaty signed by the Nile basin countries removed the Egyptian veto and allowed irrigation and hydroelectric dam projects. This is despite opposition from Egypt and Sudan.
Faced with this situation, the UN had recommended the three countries continue their talks under the protection of the African Union.
Cairo and Khartoum, worried about their water supply, had previously asked Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to stop filling the dam. Despite this, Ethiopia proceeded with the second phase of dam filling last July.
It should be remembered that the initial production of Gerd is of the order of 375 MW with the commissioning of the first turbine out of the 13 of the whole dam.