30 December 2017

East Africa: GERD - More Than Just a Dam

Photo: Ethiopian Herald
The Grand Renaissance Dam or GERD.
analysis

The global media seems to limit the importance of the Nile and GERD to a bone of contention between Ethiopia and the riparian countries.

For Ethiopia, GERD is more than a hydroelectric dam. As repeatedly stressed by Ethiopia, GERD is a flagship project that symbolizes the unity and sovereignty of the peoples of Ethiopia who are continuously expending billions of Birr to complete the project as soon as possible.

Over the previous hundred years, huge number of hydroelectric dams have been built around the world but when Ethiopia finally decided to use its share of the resources of the Blue Nile by constructing a dam, a lot of dust has blown up here and there. Ethiopia or many of the Nile riparian countries have never been parties to the two sets of agreements that were signed in a gross miscarriage of justice and Ethiopia's sovereign rights to use its own resources.

From the outset, Ethiopia initiated the Tripartite Agreement which included the Republic of Sudan and Egypt as a means of ensuring collective, inclusive and equitable use the resources of the Nile. This single instance clearly indicates that Ethiopia intends to approach any issue on the Nile in a more transparent way so that the countries involved could work together in a sprit de corp for the overall development of the sub-region.

Besides, during the construction of the dam, Ethiopia has repeatedly invited media outlets from Sudan and Egypt to the observe the reality on the ground through their own perspectives. International scholars, diplomats and ambassadors from many countries had visited the site of the dam. Ethiopia also initiated a strategy of public diplomacy as a means of building trust between the peoples of the three countries and to further enhance people to people relations.

One of the most conspicuous features of the GERD is the fact that it is being built and finance by the peoples of Ethiopia. This is a unique situation in Africa where even the most modest infrastructural facilities through foreign financial support. The public servants, farmers, various national financial institutions, Ethiopians in the Diaspora are proudly financing the biggest hydroelectric power dam in Africa. The peoples of Ethiopia are making history for all to witness.

The leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are constantly meeting to stream line not only on the progress of the GERD but also to discuss on future relations between the two countries. The issues related to GERD and the Nile are only few of the issues that explain the needs, interests, values and diplomatic and public relations between the countries.

In his discussion with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry a couple of days back, Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh said the dam will not harm any country. "This dam has no single harm on Egyptians,"

On several occasions, Ethiopia has expressed its commitment to work both with Egypt and Sudan in the spirit of accountability and transparency. During his visit to Ethiopia, the Egyptian foreign minister expressed his country's commitment to the full implementation of the Declaration of Principles for the benefits of the peoples of the three countries, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The Egyptian foreign minister stressed on the need to move in all sectors whether in the issues of GERD, economic development, direct investment, or establishment of industrial parks to attract further investment and capacity building cooperation.

Apart from the negotiations on GERD, the ratification of trade agreement between the two countries partnership in the areas of health, education, promotion of tourism, opening up investment opportunities could be further negotiated.

Ethiopia has already embarked on a number of projects that are specifically geared towards regional cooperation and integration in the areas of infrastructural development, energy and exchange of knowledge and practice in battling trans boundary contraband trade in firearms and other commodities.

The construction and final completion of GERD, will ultimately benefit not only Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan but also almost all East African countries that can use environment friendly hydroelectric power.

Among other things, GERD will be a living example on how people can pull together their resources and work towards a meaningful and sustained development through effective coordination of a strong political leadership.

One of the hurdles for less developed countries is the inability to initiate national development programs that can promote self reliance and self development. Many countries get into the vicious circle of poverty simply because they are dependent on foreign assistance as a critical part of their macroeconomic development programs.

In this context, upon completion and ultimate utilization, GERD will be a showcase not only for the development of hydropower generation but also as a leaning center of excellence in science, technology, hydrology, mechanical engineering , fishery and other areas related to water development.

Along with the construction of the dam, it is also imperative to focus on the maintenance of the ecosystem in the environs of the dam. Specific programs relating to catchment management, conservation of the original flora need to be in place before the construction and filling of water into the dam starts.

Human settlement pattern in and around the dam is another critical factor that requires due attention. The looming of such grand projects like GERD naturally leads to proliferation of urban centers both along the road to the dam and also in the environs of the dam. This implies that the settlement pattern in and around the dam need to be properly regulated.

With over 60% of completion, GERD has already become a reality on the ground. The international media and particularly the private media in Egypt are finding it very difficult to accept if not to deny. The lofty goals for which the three countries are negotiating are totally incompatible with the blind reporting of some media outlets who try to misguide both the global media and the international readership. They deny the fact that Ethiopians are contributing their financial resources for the construction of the dam and try to attribute the financing of the dam to donations from a single investor operating in Ethiopia.

Hoax news on GERD is simply part of short run media commercialism which can never change the reality on the ground. The impending truth is that the construction of GERD and the corresponding negotiations between the three countries is already helping to upscale the comprehensive relations between the countries that would definitely extend to other more profound areas of partnership and cooperation.

The hostility of some international media firms on Ethiopia's efforts to help establish a power grid in East Africa may certainly live with us for sometimes to come but again this will never change the reality on the ground.

The mutual advantages that the three nations can get from GERD is yet to unfold. GERD is a dam that could symbolize the everlasting mutually developmental opportunity not only for the lower riparian countries but also for other countries in the region.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan can no more be indifferent to each other. They basically cherish common goals and GERD could be another millstone for their trustworthy, mutually beneficial and respectful multi-faceted relations and tomorrow begins today.

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