Understanding and Visualizing the facts that can lead to a fair judgment why Ethiopia needs the GERD

8 mins read

Taking to Data

Recently Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are escalating the long-aged conflict over the Nile River because Ethiopia is building a hydropower dam for the generation of electricity on the river. Through several talks and negotiations, each county is dedicated to provide its facts and evidences that contribute to the path of peaceful solution. But an agreement is yet to come. Contributing what we know and what we think may help for better understanding of the issues at hand, and reach a sound, fair judgment and conclusion. With that in mind, I talked to a few datasets from World bank and CIS Fact Book through Python (pandas) and put the data visualization below.

By Belachew G. Ayele


May 23, 2020

What the Data Say?


  1. Introduction

The Nile River is the longest river mainly consisting of two major tributaries (White and Blue Nile) merging at Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, flowing north ward, crossing through the middle of Egypt to end at Mediterranean Sea. It is the home of oldest human civilization connecting many east and central African countries in culture, economy and history. The river basin incudes a huge area, and is dwelled in with large number of people of Africa. Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eretria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ruanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda are the counties located in this basin area. While this river is the source of cultural, historical and economic ties among several nations, it also remains to be a bone of contention, mistrust and conflict among few countries, especially Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Recently, Ethiopia planned and executed a building of the biggest in the region, if not in the content, river dam (aka. GERD) to produce hydropower electricity, and alleviate its acute shortage of energy and the chronic poverty that the country is known for years. Ethiopia’s action alarmed and threatened Egypt who refers itself as “the child of Nile” because the river is the only source of livelihood for its people. Sudan is also worried, not knowing which way to argue because often times it weighs the matter through mixed political and economic benefit. While there is an attempt to address these concerns and worries through negotiation, debate, argument and mediation within the three nations to reach a peaceful solution, some of them are tacitly equipping themselves for the worst option which is using military power. It is obvious, this last option is not a choice for any nation, as it has been proven to be a devastation for economic and human life. Instead, well thought understanding, planning, cooperation and integration ought to be sought to lead to mutual befit and growth. And this should be better based on facts, data, science, fairness and morality.

It is undisputable that decisions that are made based on facts, data, scientific analysis and fairness are long lasting. The solution to the Nile conflict should not be any different. It should be based on the facts and data available. With that in mind, some datasets are acquired, processed and presented (in visualization) to give more understanding and clarity on the Population, Access to Electricity, Electric consumption and per capita distribution in the three counties that are actively in negotiation over Nile river conflict.


  1. Data

Data are collected and extracted from World Bank and CIA Fact Book (through Wikipedia), and processed using Python (pandas) programing. Among the data element extracted and processed are.

  1. Total population of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan from 1950 through 2020.
  2. Percent population accessing electricity in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The data covers the years from 2000 through 2017. During data cleaning, outlier values are replaced by mean values and the data was smoothed by moving average/rolling average of a three years window.
  3. Electricity consumption, Average electric power capita in kilowatt per person per year, Average power per capita in watts per capita was also extracted.


  • Observation

As indicated in the beginning, the intent of this short and mundane analysis is to listen/see what the data says with respect to population, access to electricity and distribution in these three counties, i.e. Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Therefore, with respect to population (Figure 1), the historical and recent population record or estimate of these three countries indicate that Ethiopia’s population is the highest, and fastest growing amongst the three nations. Meanwhile, percent population accessing electrify (Figure 2) exhibits that Ethiopia is the lowest. As shown on the graph, Ethiopia was able to provide only about 40% of its population with electricity, while Sudan and Egypt are providing about 55% and 100% of their population with electricity respectively.

The electricity consumption, annual per capita and the straight per capita distribution (Figures 3, 5 and 6) show also that the Ethiopia stands at the bottom among all the other counites.



  1. Conclusion

Conflict among nations over scarce resources, especially water that involve rivers crossing many national and international boundaries is not uncommon phenomena. The Nile river is one of the oldest and greatest examples of all time of such a problem. Lately, the Nile collect has become a huge issue among the three nations (Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) as Ethiopia has started to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for hydropower generation. While the three nations are trying to forge negotiations among themselves on the rights and uses of the river, at times the contention and conflicts intensify due to mistrust, frustration and fear of loss. Even some of the countries are seeking help from super powers and regional allies to influence the other.  It is also an open secret that each county, especially Ethiopia and Egypt, are preparing and equipping themselves for the worst option which is a military confrontation to solve the problem by military might. But history has proven time and again that solving such conflict by power is not a lasting solution as power and alliance constantly changes and shifts through time. Instead, solving such a problem based on understanding the root causes through sound analyses of facts, data, scientific evidence, and most of all fairness and morality has by far the best and everlasting solution. This as a result leads to cooperation, integrations, mutual respect, peace and prosperity to each and everyone.


Note: If anyone is interested about the data, processing or has question, the Autor can be contacted through email.



  1. Population and Percent Population accessing to electricity


  1. Countries with electricity Consumption (as of 2016)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.