8 March 2017

Ethiopia: GERD - Iconic Project for the Realization of AU Aspirations

Photo: The Ethiopian Herald
Construction of GERD Dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is not only a gigantic hydroelectric power plant with enormous economic benefits but also a living monument of the national response to the injustice that has been perpetrated on the country for hundreds of years.

GERD engulfs several intertwined factors that are relevant to history, international and regional relations and economic integration, peace and promotion of national consensus, tourism, research, protection of the environment and several other socio-economic issues of importance.

The construction of GERD is not only in par with the national development programmes of Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) I and II, but it also fits effectively into the global Sustainable Development Goals and Africa's vision of Agenda 2063. Recent events in the promotion of renewable energy in Africa vividly show the shining example that GERD has set for a new regional initiative.

In the first meeting of the Board of Directors of African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), which was recently held at the AU headquarters, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said: " Without [the expansion of] energy and electricity, it is very difficult for African countries to industrialize."

The Initiative was launched in December 2015 at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, France. A group of 10 international partners are committed to mobilize 10 billion USD between 2015 and 2020 to the realization of the objectives of the initiative.

Noting on the irreversible commitment of Ethiopia to promote the sector, Premier Hailemariam said "Ethiopia will be very much involved and committed for the success of the initiative."

The Africa-led Initiative is aimed at accelerating and scaling up efforts to harness the continent's huge renewable energy potential setting to achieve at least 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020 and 300 GW by 2030.

GERD is not only an inert hydropower dam. It has effectively nurtured a practical and nationwide national consensus in Ethiopia. It is a living symbol of unity, irrespective of differences in ethnicity, religious affiliation, world outlook and gender.

The question now is what brought up this spirit of consensus? Does it emanate from mere nationalist stance on the use of the Nile or is it from an understanding of long range and multi-faceted benefits the nation gets from the project?

Both ways may prove to be obvious facts. The River Nile has been jutting out of Ethiopia providing the country with no benefit. Hence, the construction of GERD has increased a positive outlook for mutual development at the national level and in the context of the riparian countries. Ever since the victory at the Battle of Adwa, no issue has triggered a massive consensus on unity and national development than GERD.

GERD has uplifted the aspirations of the youth in Ethiopia. It stands to reason that almost all professionals engaged in the construction and safeguarding the security of the dam are in the age bracket of youth. Besides generating employment opportunity for thousands of youth, GERD has also been instrumental in promoting technology transfer and developing a new generation of engineers that can replicate their know how to future hydropower projects not only in Ethiopia but to the rest of Africa as well.

The dam is being constructed by the peoples of Ethiopia irrespective of the amount of the money in their pockets. A whole chain of social fabric ranging from kids in nurseries to senior citizens are contributing to the battle raging against poverty through their ever growing commitment to the completion of GERD.

All the more, GERD is a living symbol of peace in Africa as it would spearhead the integration of power grids in the Horn of Africa to promote carbon free industry and refocus the continent's attention from collusion to coalition. After all, GERD is an iconic project for the realization of the African Union aspiration that want to see economically integrated countries.

No wonder Africans in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sudan Republic, Somalia, Djibouti and Egypt could count on GERD as a source of renewable energy. GERD will certainly be a hub for tourists from these countries and around the world.

GERD is also expected to be a regional research centre for institutes of higher learning in Ethiopia and for universities in the region as well as global partners in education and research. Researches in and around GERD may focus on hydrology, aquatic life, watershed management, settlement, soil and water conservation and a number of researches relevant to semi-arid ecologies.

This flagship project is also a showcase and a melting pot for unity in diversity for the peoples of Ethiopia. It is a practical manifestation of the fact that the Ethiopian federal system is on the right track. The Renaissance Trophy, which is in a national tour in all the states is not a symbolic gesture for soliciting national fund for the construction of GERD, rather it is a demonstration of the commonality of needs, interests, values and attitude of the Ethiopian people towards national development.

It also demonstrates the transformation of the country from internal conflict and civil war to waging a national war against poverty and destitution. In this regard, the dam has helped to enhance national optimism and a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel in the journey to end poverty once and for all. The project has vindicated the correct path towards breaking the vicious circle of poverty. Thanks to GERD, ordinary Ethiopians have developed the culture of saving. As the Ethiopian proverb goes "Dihenet Ye Arba Ken Idil Aydelem", literary mean "Poverty is no vice"

Ethiopia does not and will never harbor a mentality of 'after me, the deluge'. The lofty goals which GERD strives to meet are effectively national, regional and global as well. Ethiopia's renewable energy development programme is not an inconsiderate programme that tends to exclude from its benefits other brotherly African countries. It is a manifestation of a typical Ethiopian culture of sharing resources with neighbours. The 6th anniversary of the laying of GERD"s cornerstone is a couple of days away and an unparalleled public mobilization is going on in much the same vein as it was during the Battle of Adwa.

In connection to the International Women's Day (March 8), Ethiopians from all walks of life across the country participated in a running race under the theme: The Enhancement of Women's Saving Culture is the Basis for Our Renaissance ." The spirit and eagerness displayed by the runners was amazing and afresh for the GERD. It is heart-heating and empowering for all Ethiopians. It felt like Ethiopians are chasing out poverty. Certainly, though the road may seem to be torturous, victory against poverty is obvious.

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