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Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance dam

Date: 06 January 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous


Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt have agreed to resume negotiations to resolve their long complex dispute over the Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project in the Horn of Africa.



The Nile has been at the center of a complex dispute involving several countries that are dependent on the river’s waters. 



  • The Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project is built by Ethipia and will be Africa’s largest once completed.

  • The main waterways of the Nile run through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt, and its drainage basin runs through several countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia.

  • The construction of the dam was initiated in 2011 on the Blue Nile tributary of the river that runs across one part of Ethiopia.

  • The Nile is a necessary water source in the region and Egypt has consistently objected to the dam’s construction, saying it will impact water flow.

  • The long-standing dispute has been a cause of concern for international observers who fear that it may increase conflict between the two nations and spill out into other countries in the Horn of Africa.

  • Sudan’s location between Egypt up north and Ethiopia down south has caused it to become a reluctant party to this dispute.


Dam as a cause of conflict

  • The Blue Nile carries a major portion of water into the main Nile river. The dam would potentially allow Ethiopia to gain control of the flow of the river’s waters.

  • Egypt lies further downstream and is concerned that Ethiopia’s control over the water could result in lower water levels within its own borders.

  • Egypt and its economy is increasingly centred around the Nile and lower water availability is sure to hamper its growth and development.


Need for the dam

  • Ethiopia’s goal is to secure electricity for its population and to sustain and develop its growing manufacturing industry.

  •  It anticipates that this dam will generate approximately 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is completed, that can be distributed for the needs of its population and industries.

  • In addition to its domestic requirements, Ethiopia may be hoping to sell surplus electricity to neighbouring nations like Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea, and South Sudan, to generate some revenue.


Status of dispute

  • Egypt and Sudan are concerned about the filling and the operation of the dam. Ethiopia continues to insist that the dam is required to meet the needs of its population and has said that downstream water supplies will not be adversely affected.

  • Sudan believes that the dam will reduce flooding, but is concerned about the path forward if the negotiations end at a stalemate.