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Success of GERD is Momentous for Africa

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The successful completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam should be a momentous event — not only for the country of Ethiopia, but also for the African continent, since it would mark the triumph of the largest hydroelectric project in Africa. However, since its inception in 2011, the daring project has produced much controversy, especially amongst Egyptian politicians.

In 2013, Egyptian officials discussed plans to sabotage the building of the dam, thinking that their conversation was private. Before Muhammad Morsi, then-president of Egypt, could let all in the room know that they were, in fact, on a live television channel, much damage had been done. Although the politicians’ dislike of the Ethiopian project was known previously, this incident exposed the extent of their resentment in a highly public way.

The dam’s projected completion year is 2017, and is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity, which more than doubles Ethiopia’s present capacity for generating power. While this is likely to improve significantly the standard of living in Ethiopia, Egyptians view the situation differently because it also means giving up some of the waters of the Nile, which plays a central role in their history. For thousands of years, the Nile has played a pivotal role in Egyptian history, and accounts for nearly 100 percent of Egypt’s water supply.

The importance of the Nile to Egypt has not changed in modern times, as evidenced by a treaty signed with Sudan in 1959, which gives Egypt control over two-thirds of the river. So it comes as no surprise that Egypt would find it difficult to accommodate Ethiopia’s bid to share the Nile. Additionally, with the boom in population, two-thirds of the Nile is no longer enough to sustain Egypt’s water needs. Egyptian officials,instead of being moved to find ways to eliminate the well-documented ways in which water is wasted, complain that the Ethiopian dam will leave them “high and dry.”