By years’ end, one of the world’s largest dams will begin filling up, affecting the fate of millions of people as it does so.
Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam on the upper reaches of the Blue Nile has been six years in the making, and is a project of staggering proportions. It will create a lake 150 square kilometres in size, produce electricity equal to a third of the UAE’s energy output and has cost 10 billion Ethiopian birr (Dh1.59bn) so far.
It will also ensure a steady supply of water. Ethiopia’s fate has been to be remembered as a country of recurring drought, spawning a mini-industry of aid organisations dedicated to feeding its people in time of need.
"The Renaissance dam which we are constructing by joining hands together is among the list of mega projects in Africa and the world, becoming a source of our national pride," the Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at a torch lighting ceremony in Addis Ababa last month, according to the local media agency Ezeda.
The torch will be carried around the country for the next 12 months to celebrate the dam’s progress, and to thank the public for their support. According the Ethiopian government, more than 1bn birr has been raised from the sales of lottery tickets, music concerts and bonds – all by ordinary citizens.
Reviving Ethiopia’s economy has been the prime goal of the government, following the disastrous rule of the Derg, a military junta during the 1980s. It was the Derg’s legacy that resulted in images of starving children coming to represent a once-proud country. This is something the current administration is working to change.
By 2020 Ethiopia aims to increase its export revenue to US$16 billion, up from the current $3bn. The country has already started attracting manufacturers from China and elsewhere. Political stability, economic certainty and its proximity to the Arabian Gulf make it a choice destination for exporters.
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