Photograph — Building Performance

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi shares among other things, his first two names with Sudan’s head of military council, General Abdel Fattah el-Burhan. Luckily, they also share a desire to come to an agreement on the Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia’s expansive project at the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, along the Blue Nile River.

In a visit to Cairo last week, General Abdel Fattah reaffirmed his promise to ignore countries seeking to harm Egypt, and the Gulf countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (sometimes called Millennium Dam) has been in the works since April 2011. The planned 6-000 megawatts Dam represents Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s literal powerhouse – it could easily become the seventh largest hydroelectric dam in the world, and Africa’s largest.

From the start, Egypt demanded that Ethiopia stop work and return to the negotiation table, as the North African country believed that it could lose most of its access to water from the River Nile, which it heavily relies upon.

Ethiopians have accelerated work at the site, while negotiations with Egypt continued to stall. In March this year, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister, Seleshi Bekele, said the government expected the dam to become fully operational by 2022.

The dam has been a source of constant friction between Egypt and the rest of the Nile Basin Initiative, a consortium of nine countries that share the River Nile, many of whom have hinted they are tired of asking Egypt’s permission before embarking on projects on the River Nile.

For two years, several meetings between the irrigation, foreign affairs, and general intelligence ministers of the three most invested countries (Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia) have ended without a clear resolution.

This fresh alliance represents a breakthrough for Egypt in the battle to remain relevant in exploratory decisions made around the River Nile. It is also a relief for Egypt and Ethiopia as diplomatic talks had broken down following the violent overthrow of former Sudanese leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir last year.

It also marks another huge step forward in Egypt’s developmental March. Just yesterday, the country began mulling offers from Blackstone and Edra Power Holdings to take over three power plants- a move that could reduce its national debt significantly while bulking foreign investment. 

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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