China’s allies at loggerheads over Ethiopia dam

China’s allies at loggerheads over Ethiopia dam – will Beijing intervene?

  • Ethiopia has begun filling its Blue Nile reservoir against the wishes of Sudan and Egypt, which feared doing so could cause droughts
  • Beijing has investments in all three countries, including in electricity production under the dam project

The Ethiopian project will establish Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. Photo: AFP

(scmp)—Beijing may not have directly funded the controversial US$4.6 billion

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

(GERD) across the Blue Nile, but it provided loans for related infrastructure and has an interest in a three-nation row over the project being resolved.

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt – the three countries in dispute over the dam’s construction – are key allies of China. Analysts say Beijing can use its diplomatic and economic influence to help ease tensions and find a lasting solution to the dispute.

On Wednesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed that his country had achieved its target of filling the reservoir behind the dam with its first 4.9 billion cubic metres of water – days after its neighbours Sudan and Egypt raised objections against doing so.

“The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians’ commitment to the renaissance of our country,” Ahmed said.

Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government.

The Ethiopian project will establish Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. Photo: AFP

Beijing may not have directly funded the controversial US$4.6 billion

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

(GERD) across the Blue Nile, but it provided loans for related infrastructure and has an interest in a three-nation row over the project being resolved.

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt – the three countries in dispute over the dam’s construction – are key allies of China. Analysts say Beijing can use its diplomatic and economic influence to help ease tensions and find a lasting solution to the dispute.

On Wednesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed that his country had achieved its target of filling the reservoir behind the dam with its first 4.9 billion cubic metres of water – days after its neighbours Sudan and Egypt raised objections against doing so.

“The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians’ commitment to the renaissance of our country,” Ahmed said.

China is neither directly funding the dam nor is it playing an official role in mediation talks taking place through the African Union (AU), but it wields a lot of diplomatic and investment clout in the three countries.

Chinese companies and banks funded the main transmission line from the dam that will supply electricity to neighbouring towns and cities, and other Chinese companies are subcontractors for the project.

Last year, Ethiopia awarded contracts worth US$40.1 million and US$112 million respectively to China Gezhouba Group and Voith Hydro Shanghai.
In 2013, China advanced US$1.2 billion in loans to Ethiopia to build power transmission lines to connect the dam to major towns and cities. And last year, China promised to lend a further US$1.8 billion to fund the expansion of Ethiopia’s power grid, following a visit by Ahmed to Beijing.

Kenya opens massive US$1.5 billion railway project funded and built by China

The dam itself is funded by the Ethiopian government and through public loans and infrastructure bonds.

According to Ahmed, filling the reservoir would enable the Horn of Africa nation to produce electricity by next year from two turbines.
He made his announcement on Wednesday a day after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also chairman of the AU, hosted leaders from the three countries and other presidents from the continent to discuss the dispute.

Ramaphosa said at the meeting that trilateral negotiations would continue via the African Union to resolve contentious issues. Egypt and Sudan had yet to respond to Ethiopia’s statement.

Have China’s dams been drying up the Mekong River or is low rainfall to blame?

The GERD has been a source of tension in the Nile basin since the project broke ground in 2011. Ethiopia had planned to start filling the reservoir this month during the rainy season, but Egypt and Sudan were worried that doing so could lower the river’s water levels.

Last week, tensions ratcheted up after reports, and satellite images captured by the European space agency, emerged suggesting that Ethiopia had started filling it. The reservoir has a capacity of more than 74 billion cubic metres.

Although China has avoided being directly involved in the controversy, analysts said its voice should be more pronounced to help end the stalemate.


አማርኛ ዜና – የግድቡ ሸያጭ፣ የህዳሴ ግድብን በተመለከተ መንግስት ህዝብን ለማታለል የሚያደርገው ጥረት አግባብነት የለዉም ተባለ። ሀምሌ 17/2012 ዓ.ም

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