By Tekleab Shibru Associate Professor of Geomatics, Chicago State University
Previous article entitled: “Greater love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends: How Nile river related Ethiopia to Egypt”, has reflected on President Al Sisi’s twitter remark that Nile River is God’s gift to Egyptian. The article argued that not just Ethiopia’s Nile River but Ethiopia itself as God’s gift to Egyptian. Ethiopian highlands are instrumental in condensing water vapor to produce a rain generating Nile river, rugged terrains are ensuring accelerated watershed response to a rainfall events, and geological and environmental formations are yielding and loading one of the world’s most fertile soils sediment to the river. On the other hand, the same processes, has been “a curse in disguise” for the Ethiopia’s population, agriculture and livestock suffering from the shortage of water and food. In some areas of Nile river watershed, the process degraded as much as 60% of the landscapes thereby limiting suitability to agriculture and other land uses mainly: grazing, forestland, or wildlife.
Grand Ethiopian Renascence dam (GERD) (See Figure 1) is, however, a project launched to cast hope in despair and optimism in fear. It is to harvest cheap and safe energy from Nile river, which is a blessing in disguise for Egypt and other low-lying (i.e., downstream) countries surrounding Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s unique suitability (i.e., both the climatic and physical characteristics) for generating a high quality and quantity hydroelectric power is a reminder of God’s perfect creation. While He has created the Nile rivers for the welfare the people in the desert areas, He also made the rivers momentous and turbulent so that His people on the highland make their living by generating clean energy.
Figure 1: Grand Ethiopian Renascence dam (GERD)
Ethiopia’s precipitation is in the order of 1500 – 2400mm per annum, particularly, on the highlands. The topographies are characteristically mountainous with high plateaus, deep gorges, river valleys that are dropping, at times sharply, toward the lowlands. These topographies create rivers with multitude of rapids and waterfalls necessary for the installation of productive hydropower plants. According to some estimates, the country has a potential of generating around 45,000 MW of hydropower, which is the second largest potential in Africa, following democratic republic of Congo. This is equivalent to the average amount of electrical energy generated from 90 nuclear power plants, which is massive for a country otherwise these rivers are a curse in disguise.
This Energy potential is very important for Ethiopia and her neighbors, particularly Egypt. American Energy security report documented a strong relationship between energy consumption and economic development especially, for developing economies at the early stage. Thence, energy shortage is massive drag on fast growing economy of countries such as Egypt and Ethiopia. Egypt is unsustainably reliant on non-renewable and non-eco-friendly energy sources; such as natural gas, coal, fossil fuel, and oil products (see Figure 2). Hydroelectricity and other renewable energies account for only 4% of over all energy consumption and 80,000 bbl of hydrocarbons is imported per day, to satisfy the energy demands of the country. Developing economies of Egypt and the region will definitely need energy (such as this) for raw material production, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and minerals extraction (including oil and gas). They will also need it for light and heavy manufacturing industries, construction, transportation, business and provisions of other public services.
Figure 1: Egypt’s Energy Consumption by sources (Source: American Energy Security
Therefore, it is in the interest of acquiring environmentally-friendly and economically cheap energy sources that countries such as Egypt must seriously consider opportunities the GERD project present to them. The energy will inevitably accelerate Egypt’s economic growth and create formidable regionally interdependent economies. For example, because of its irrigation agriculture, Egypt can specialize on extensive agricultural and raw material production, while Ethiopia specializes on processing these products. In other words, Egypt can stretch an economy that is a foundation for hydropower-based Ethiopia’s economy. Such economies can bring much needed peace, and stability to the region, while also effecting a more sustainable social development and economic transformation.
Ethiopia has already branded GERD project as region-serving energy initiative. To this effect, the country, which has already provided 100 MW of energy to Sudan, 70 MW of energy to Djibouti and 10 MW of energy to Kenya, is putting forth many ambitious proposals. With the purchase and construction of 500 kV transmission interconnector lines, from a billion dollar borrowed from Brazil, Ethiopia is on the way to share her vast hydropower resources with neighboring Southern Sudan, Kenya, Sudan, Somaliland and Egypt. Although costly, it seems like nothing is deterring Ethiopia, and slowly but surely steady progresses are being made in this direction.
Nonetheless, the hardest and disappointing part of the project has been the uphill endured and cost incurred to convince the stubborn position of Egypt and their president change. It is to end relentless blackmail thrown by the immediate beneficiaries of the project, specially, the Egyptian government and other neighborly Arab countries. Their misunderstanding, and inability or unwillingness to see what is at stake has been frustrating and disheartening. The world must know that this level of engagement in counterproductive activities, is totally unfair for Egypt and President Al Sisi to. It would only sink the entire region into unnecessary backwardness, when Ethiopia is working hard, in good faith, for a regionally shared prosperity and blessings.
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