15 December 2013

Africa for Optimists - 2013 in Review


If you think Africa's only about coups, civil wars and crazy dictators... well, we do have a few of those. But there's been plenty else happening on the continent that defies all those negative stereotypes. SIMON ALLISON picks a few of the year's most encouraging stories.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

In May, Ethiopia began the process of diverting the flow of the Blue Nile to allow construction to begin on the mammoth 6,000MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. It's the kind of showpiece infrastructure project designed to reflect Ethiopia's impressive economic progress over the last decade, as well as its sizeable ambitions; but it also poses an existential threat to Ethiopia's downstream neighbours, Sudan and Egypt, who worry that any drop in Nile water supply could have a catastrophic impact on agriculture in their own countries.

At one stage, both Sudan and Egypt were talking tough - demanding that Ethiopia cease construction and threatening military action if it continued. Ethiopia, for its part, didn't help matters by taking advantage of the chaos in Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring to press ahead with its plans.

This year, however, tempers have cooled and both Sudan and Egypt have toned...

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