6 April 2017

Ethiopia: Embracing the Win-Win Approach

Photo: Ethiopian Herald
The Grand Renaissance Dam or GERD.

Shearing off the age-old monopolistic perceptions hanging over from the days of yore regarding the utilization of resources, thinking out of the box is very much helpful for mending wrong turns and becoming forward looking. Mongering to the archaic adage "Might is right!", in so far as my interest is met and as long as I cream off the lion's share of the boon, my neighbours, with whom I share a common resource, say a river, could land in a soup no longer buys currency, for the catchphrase of the era has become a win-win deal.

Alluding to the mind set of scramble for power relegated to the dustbin of history, dragging foot reluctant to all-embracing benefits and growth is an act frowned up on as it is not in concord with modern trends. For a sustainable and efficient utilization of such a resource, the mental bent of seeing the resource as a common wealth pays of. Clicking with each other with considerateness is what should be made a point.

Ten upper riparian countries of the Nile River, as member states, have come aboard the Nile Basin Initiative launched in 1999, for the initiative eyes at development projects like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that reinforces common growth and buttresses studies for sustainable and mutual utilization of resources. The initiative as well workout the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). It is in cognizance of the aforementioned facts that downstream countries are nowadays voicing interest to follow suit.

It is to be recalled that Egypt and Sudan did take part in launching the NBI and the CFA negotiations. Both countries suspended their NBI memberships after the CFA was opened for signature in 2010. But Sudan reactivated its membership in 2013. Egypt has never boycotted the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM), comprised of ministers in charge of water affairs in each of the NBI member states and the highest decision and policy-making organ of the NBI, but it had been boycotting the technical level meetings.

In an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia Abou Bakar Henfy Mahmoud, regarding his country's current take on the matter, hinted at Egypt's interest to restore its position in the NBI.

He noted Egypt could not distance itself from the cooperation for regional developmental thrust. He said "Encouraging efforts are under way to expedite the good relations." He added Egypt doesn't entertain the desire of domineering over countries in the basin as it abides by the no-harm, benefit-all and win-win ideals-- governing principles of the era. As to him, revisiting its stance pertaining to the Entebe agreement, Egypt is warming up to join the Cooperation Framework Agreement (CFA) in the not distant future.

It is to be recalled that former Egyptian leaders were backpedaling from the common utilization of the Blue Nile River while their contemporary Ethiopian leaders were not committed to the utilization of the resource.

Contrariwise, currently Ethiopian leaders are proving forthcoming in tapping this resource for regional growth--bridging demand and supply imbalance of electricity much needed for industrialization and socio-economic take off-- while Egyptian leaders are strategizing relations with Ethiopia aiming at shared vision. "We have rich resources. And the resources include, of course, water and electricity." The Ethio-Egypt relations had been at a deadlock for over six decades as a result of misconceptions and misunderstanding "through the ongoing fruitful popular diplomatic efforts, we will prove brotherhood to our respective citizens and the world," added the Egyptian ambassador.

Up on arrival on a three-day state visit here on Tuesday, Sudanese President Al-Bashir commented that the GERD project would not harm downstream countries. Capitalizing on the benefit of projects like GERD, fine-tuned with the ideals of the framework of NBI, he said Ethiopia and Sudan are working to connect GERD with Khartoum. "WE have agreed to buy 300MW of electricity the dam generates."

There is no gainsaying that NBI aims at an efficient utilization of resources. Pertaining to this, experts note "The water that evaporates from Aswan Dam is much greater than the one Egypt utilizes for irrigation. That is due to the vulnerability of the water of the Aswan Dam to a scorching sun. If this water is preserved in a gorge, having a lower surface area at the Ethiopian Highlands, the quantity of evaporation will be scaled down." This ensures a sustained flow of the water downstream telling on the fact GERD is beneficial to all.

Egypt's position as an arid country with little rainfall and total reliance on the Nile River is understandable. Ethiopia and member states of NBI respect Egypt water security concerns. When they think of development it is mindful of this fact. That is why they have mounted a remarkable public diplomacy to drive home their genuine intent of a win-win approach.

The bottom line is mindful of the fact signatories of the NBI have no hidden motive of inflicting harm on their brothers and sisters in downstream countries and cognizant that the upstream countries interest resides in sustainable and considerate use of resources, Egypt need reconsider NBI membership it disrupted in 2010.


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