Egypt's Options to Counter Ethiopia's Grand Dam Run Dry

Jun 6, 2018 | 08:00 GMT

This photograph shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2015. The hydroelectric project near the Sudanese-Ethiopian border is nearing completion.

A photo taken on March 31, 2015, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam under construction near the Sudanese-Ethiopian border. Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in May 2013 to build the 6,000-megawatt dam, which will be Africa's largest when completed. Egypt, heavily reliant for millennia on the Nile for agriculture and drinking water, fears that the dam would decrease its water supply.



  • The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a critical component of Addis Ababa's economic development strategy, will provide ample electricity for the country's 100 million citizens.
  • Despite Egypt's long hostility to the project, Ethiopia will soon complete the dam, underscoring the shifting balance of power from Cairo to the upstream states of Sudan and Ethiopia.
  • Cairo's weak hand and inability to gain sufficient leverage over Addis Ababa will force it to coordinate dam operations if it wishes to have input on future Nile River projects.

The diplomatic merry-go-round shows little sign that it is about to slow down. In mid-May, officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan sat down in Addis Ababa to discuss the estimated $6.4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project and to find a solution to the Egypt-Ethiopia impasse over the hydroelectric project on the Nile River. Although the negotiators, including foreign ministers, intelligence chiefs and water ministers, failed to break the deadlock, they did sign a new road map to establish a scientific study group to monitor one of Egypt's biggest concerns -- the rate at which water fills the reservoir. The talks seem likely to beget more talks, because Cairo will have little choice but to adopt a more conciliatory tone in the months ahead if it wishes to minimize the effect of the new dam -- as well as that of any future projects -- on downstream activities....

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