Pretoria, South Africa | Zachary Donnenfeld | ISS TODAY | The government of Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Once complete, the GERD will be the largest hydropower facility in Africa (about 6 000 MW) – nearly triple the country’s current electricity generation capacity – and represent a potential economic windfall for the government.
The benefits for Ethiopia and for many electricity-importing countries in East Africa are clear. However the implications for downstream countries aren’t all positive – and need to be better understood.
In 2016, about 30% of Ethiopia’s population had access to electricity and more than 90% of households continued to rely on traditional fuels for cooking. Traditional fuels can cause respiratory infections, and according to the World Health Organisation, acute lower respiratory infection is the leading cause of death in Ethiopia.
With its national livelihood depending on the Nile, it’s difficult to anticipate what Egypt’s reaction might be should Ethiopia proceed with its plan to fill the dam. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty recently told Reuters that Egypt had ‘no other resources … we will not allow our national interests, our national security to be endangered’. This brings back memories of former president Mohamed Morsi’s ominous 2013 speech, in which he declared that if the Nile ‘loses one drop, our blood is the alternative’.
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