Egypt and Ethiopia could be on the brink of an armed conflict after the UN was asked to intervene in the start-up of the $4 billion hydroelectric dam being built by Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has been constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam, which would be the largest on the African continent, for nearly a decade in an effort to become the largest power exporter on the continent, and combat high levels of poverty in the country with a population of over 100 million.
However, because the dam is being built on the Blue Nile, one of the biggest tributaries of the Nile River, Egypt has opposed the construction from the outset. They believe that the flagship project undertaken by the Ethiopian government will deplete the river that supplies almost all of their water and upon which 95% of their population lives.
And on Friday, Egypt called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene and restart talks on megastructure that is being built near the border with Sudan.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt took this decision in light of the stalled negotiations that took place recently on the Renaissance Dam as a result of Ethiopian stances that are not positive,” the foreign ministry said, according to Reuters.
The latest round of negotiations were conducted over video conference starting on 9 June. Ethiopia will start filling the dam in July. However, negotiations haven’t been fruitful so far, with US president, Donald Trump, mediating talks between the two North African states in Washington back in February.
Egypt’s concerns over the Nile River are certainly warranted, however, more as a result of its exploding population – which is growing at an alarming rate of 1 million every six months – climate change and pollution. The waters of the Nile are frequently found to have garbage and sewage occupying its canals. The UN warns that rising temperatures could lead to long, dry spells and increased water scarcity, with water shortages predicted to hit the country by 2025.
The conflict, particularly over the Nile, which Egypt considers to be a part of its national identity, stretches back over 200 years, where Egypt and colonial powers attempting to invade Ethiopia several times in an attempt to pry control over the Blue Nile from it. However, it has been suggested that Egypt may instigate a proxy war between Ethiopia and Sudan, who share a poorly demarcated 1,600 mile (2500km), which is a mere 9 miles (15km) West of the dam.
The Grand Renaissance Dam has the potential to turn Ethiopia into an African powerhouse, with the country already boasting the continent’s fastest growing economy. It stands at 155m tall and 1.78km wide and is estimated to be able to generate 16,153 GigaWatt Hours of hydropower electricity per year. That would be enough electricity to power the whole country and make it the biggest power exporter in Africa. It will also solve water scarcity problems in Ethiopia, which plays the biggest role its problems related to producing food in the country, which has roughly 10.2 million people going hungry right now.