Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Artist drawing of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

 

Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Lawrence Freeman

July 17, 2020

Ethiopia is entering a crucial period for the future of its nation, as we approach the second half of July. Ethiopia must use the forthcoming rainy season (July to September) to begin the partial filling of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River. When fully completed, the GERD, Africa’s largest hydroelectric project is capable of producing over 6,000 megawatts (MW). This is not only a game changer for Ethiopia, but will contribute to transforming the Horn of Africa.

The Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile just north of Khartoum, Sudan, provides 86% of the water that becomes the Nile River. From there, the Nile flows north through the deserts of Sudan and Egypt before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  Ethiopia has been involved in intense discussions with Sudan and Egypt, downstream from the dam, about the amount of water to be withdrawn from the Blue Nile to begin filling the GERD’s 76 billion cubic meter storage/reservoir. Egypt continuously attempts to forestall the filling of the dam, alleging that since it is dependent on the Nile, if the volume of the Nile is reduced, its citizens will suffer irreparable harm. For most of the last century Egypt has received the majority of the Nile River’s 84 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water.

Electricity for Development

The GERD, which is 75% finished was entirely funded by the Ethiopian people, is a $5 billion water infrastructure project initiated in 2011. Its purpose is to provide much needed electricity to power Ethiopia’s transition from an agrarian dominated economy to one that encompasses manufacturing and industry. In the years ahead, Ethiopia envisions become a light manufacturing hub for Africa, increasing manufacturing output, and manufacturing jobs by 440%.

The functioning of the GERD is not an option for this emerging nation of 110 million people, but a categorical necessity.

As a physical economist, who has studied Africa for decades, and knows the key drivers of economic growth, I can tell you that nothing is more vital for the survival of Africa, than the production of electricity.  Without abundant and accessible electricity, poverty and disease will not be eliminated. Poverty is the number one enemy of Africa and is the cause of immense suffering for hundreds of millions of Africans.

Approximately 600 million Africans, almost half of the continent’s population, are not connected to a central energy grid. The overwhelming majority of them reside in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). More than 65 million Ethiopians, 40-45% of the population, do not have access to electricity. While Ethiopia suffers from one of the lowest per capita levels of electrical energy consumption, Egypt’s population of 100 million has 100% access.

When completed, the GERD will increase Ethiopia’s power generation from its current level of 4,500 MW to close to 11,000 MW, which will make it the second largest energy producer in SAA, behind South Africa. Ethiopia has already entered into agreements to export its excess electricity to other nations in East Africa.

“The Ethiopians officials have announced an annual investment of one billion dollars over the next decade in the development of specialized industrial parks.” (Courtesy Medafricatimes.com)

Ethiopia’s commitment to construct the GERD resonates with the same vision that compelled the nation to build the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti rail line; to expand their economy, eliminate poverty, and provide a meaningful future for their expanding young population.

While Ethiopia is blessed with several water systems, the Blue Nile provides between 70% of its surface water. Ethiopia suffers from water shortages, droughts, and food insecurity due to inadequate infrastructure and under development.

It is true that Egypt has one of the lowest water per capita consumption rates in the world at 570 cubic meters per year, well below the global average of 1,000. Ethiopia’s amount is a mere 125 cubic meters per capita, barely more than 20% of Egypt’s level.

However, the Ethiopia government has plainly stated that the intention of the GERD is not to provide water for irrigation or consumption. The motivation and sacrifice of the Ethiopian people in undertaking this mega infrastructure project is to provide electrical power for the purpose of developing their nation. Ethiopia intends on becoming a low-middle income nation. It can no longer allow its people to be without electricity, relegated to burning wood. Improving the lives of their citizens today and future generations is the objective of an operational GERD.

Blue Nile joins White Nile in Khartoum, Sudan

 

Sovereignty Versus Colonialism  

The Blue Nile descends from Lake Tana, deep inside Ethiopia’s mountains, traveling through Ethiopia before entering Sudan. The GERD will capture Blue Nile waters about 40 meters before the Sudanese border. Ethiopia intends to fill the dam’s reservoir with 14.5 bcm of water over the first two years for testing. The withdrawing of this amount from the Blue Nile’s 49 bcm will not adversely affect downstream nations (Sudan, Egypt). In fact, the GERD will benefit these nations by regulating the flow of the Nile, preventing flooding, reducing silt, and decreasing evaporation.

Ethiopia has the wonderful distinction in Africa of having never been colonized. Unlike my beloved American July 4th, celebrating our independence from the British Empire, Ethiopia has no Independence Day. Instead, Ethiopia celebrates Adwa Day, March 1, 1896, when they defeated the Italian army on the battlefield in northern Ethiopia. Yet Ethiopia is fighting the remnants of British colonialism today in its determination to generate energy to free its people from the bondage of poverty.

Contrary to Egyptian claims, the negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are not about water sharing or water allocation. There have been two water allocation agreements regarding the Nile waters, that involved only Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia was not a signatory nor participants to either accord, yet Egypt asserts historical rights over the Nile River, including Ethiopia’s Blue Nile. The most recent such agreement was in 1959, three years after Sudan’s independence from Britain, which recodified the 1929 British Imperialist agreement guaranteeing 55 bcm of Nile waters to Egypt and 18.5 bcm to Sudan. At the time of the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, both Egypt and Sudan were colonies of Great Britain as stipulated by the 1899 Anglo-Egyptian Condominium.  This treaty also “granted Egypt veto power over construction projects on the Nile or any of its tributaries in an effort to minimize any interference with the flow of water into the Nile.”

To maintain geo-political domination and control of trade along the eastern spine of Africa, Britain maintained authority over the Nile waters from Cairo down to Khartoum and beyond into southern Sudan.

Ethiopia, an independent nation was not subject to Britain’s edicts and retained sovereignty over the Blue Nile.

Thus, from whence does Egypt’s historical claim to dominance of the Nile originate.

In a statement signed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, sent to the Honorable Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair of the Black Caucus, dated May 19, 2020, Rev. Jackson reveals that Egypt’s “historical rights” over the Nile are derived from the British Queen.

He cites a letter dated May 7, 1929, from Mahmoud Pasha, Chairman of the Egyptian Council of Ministers, to the British requesting affirmation of Egypt’s “natural and historical” rights to the waters of the Nile. Lord Lloyd, Britain’s High Commissioner in Cairo, responded on behalf of the Queen:

“I would like to remind your Excellency [Mahmoud Pasha] that her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom has already recognized the natural and historical rights of Egypt to the waters of the Nile. I am entrusted with the responsibility of declaring that Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom considers the observance of these rights as a fundamental principle of the policy of Great Britain.” 

Rev. Jackson stresses in his letter, that Ethiopia should not be pressured “into signing a neo-colonial agreement will make Egypt a hegemon over the Nile River.”

U.S. Gets Involved

In September, Egyptian President Al-Sisi requested U.S. assistance in negotiating the operation of the GERD. President Trump asked Treasury Department to host a series of meetings in Washington DC, beginning in November 2019. Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt attended along with a representative of the World Bank, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, to act as an impartial observer, not a mediator. Ethiopia compromised by indicating they would extend the filling beyond 3 years, to 5-7 years and increased the amount of water to be released from 35 bcm to 40 bcm in seasons of healthy rain. With the negotiations failing to lead to a resolution, Ethiopia requested to postpone the February 27-28 meeting. The meeting proceeded without Ethiopia. Sudan and Egypt attending, but Egypt alone initialed an agreement prepared without Ethiopia’s input, which the Ethiopia Foreign Ministry characterized as “unacceptable and highly partisan.”

On February 28, 2020, an official statement from the US Treasury Department praised Egypt’s “readiness to sign the agreement,” and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” The next day, Ambassador Shinn (ret), former ambassador to Ethiopia, whose has spent decades in the State Department, questioned whether the U.S. was “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.”

In a June 22, 2020 bipartisan letter addressed to Ambassador David Hale, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, seven former Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs, asked the U.S. to embrace neutrality regarding the GERD talks. They wrote:

“The U.S. position at this sensitive juncture will also have long term implications. It will either strengthen or seriously weaken our future relations with Ethiopia. While there is no question that resolution of the Nile issue will require flexibility and compromise on all sides, it is not politically viable for Prime Minister Abiy (or any Ethiopian politician) to indefinitely delay filling the GERD. However, the perception—rightly or wrongly—that the United States has sided with Egypt in the negotiations will limit our ability to support efforts aimed at reaching a settlement.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chair of the African Union convening the teleconference on the GERD

 Discussions Move to Africa

Egypt, not satisfied with the negotiating process, attempted to involve the United Nations in forcing an agreement on Ethiopia that violated its sovereignty over the GERD. On June 29, 2020, Egypt with the support of the U.S. brought the matter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC is not the normal forum to settle such matters, but Egyptians were hoping to mobilize international pressure against Ethiopia. The UNSC has instead preferred to have the African Union (AU) resolve the issue of Ethiopia’s right to operate the GERD. On the previous Friday, June 26, the Extraordinary African Union Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government conducted a video-teleconference meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat noted that more than 90% of the issues between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan had been resolved.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the AU is committed to have “an African led process in the spirit of African solutions to African problems.”

In a June 23rd statement, the U.S. Congressional Caucus emphasized the pivotal role of the AU in these tripartite negotiations. They went on to discuss the importance of the GERD for Africa.

The GERD project will have a positive impact on all countries involved and help combat food security and lack of electricity and power, supply more fresh water to more people, and stabilize and grow the economies of the region.”

The Conference of Black Mayors, in a June 29th statement, expressed their support for the filling of the GERD

“Today, on behalf of global leaders throughout the African diaspora that hold the office of mayor, the Conference of Black Mayors released the following statement in support of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the impact GERD would have on Conference of Black Mayors member cities…

“It is known that Ethiopia generates 86% of the Nile waters but has been unable to use this considerable natural resource effectively in the past. Now, following more than a decade of impressive economic growth, Ethiopia desires to utilize its naturally endowed resource for its nation’s critical growth and development. Countries throughout Africa are in dire need of electric power to enable and sustain their respective nations rise out of poverty. The creation of a sustainable energy source will create a national infrastructure that directly contributes to the wellbeing of citizens our mayors represents through our global mayors’ association…

“We strongly support a timely fill of the dam without further delays to avoid the economic impact on Ethiopia and neighboring countries.”

 Ethiopia is desirous to cooperate with downstream nations, but it will not have its sovereignty violated by having the operation of the GERD jointly managed or contingent on the requirements of water for Egypt’s downstream High Aswan Dam.

Ethiopia should and will begin filling the GERD. It would be irresponsible not to use this year’s rainy season to begin filling the reservoir, with the dam already 75% constructed. Ethiopia’s leadership will not disappoint the aspirations of the Ethiopian people, who view the GERD as emblematic of their national identity, and a critical vehicle to raise their standard of living and secure a more prosperous future for their posterity.

Ethiopia’s use of the word Renaissance in describing its new dam is not metaphorical. When fully functional, the GERD will lead to a rejuvenation of Ethiopia’s economy and that of its neighboring nations.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

The Legacy of British Colonialism in South Africa Today

The article below discusses the problem of the denial of land ownership to South Africans that was imposed by the British Imperialist Empire. A similar British colonial policy of denying land ownership to native Africans existed in Zimbabwe. After the failure by the US and UK to honor the 1980 Lancaster House Agreement to financially support the transfer of land, President Mugabe took matters into his own hands, and gave fertile land held by white Rhodesians to black Zimbabweans. This led to various efforts of regime change against President Mugabe instigated  by the UK. Providing equitable land ownership in South Africa could cause a deeper crisis than in Zimbabwe. The transfer of  farm land under consideration in South Africa does not include the land containing trillions of dollars of valuable mineral resources that are still owned by the London based financial and commodity cartels. 

“This Land Is Our Land”

South Africa’s ruling party has failed to redistribute land to the black majority for over two decades. Can the new president defuse a ticking time bomb?

By Lungisile Ntsebeza-May 3, 2018

For almost 24 years after the end of apartheid, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) supported a land reform program that was based on a willing-seller, willing-buyer policy. The policy required the consent of both the seller and buyer for the purchase of the land, with the consequence that sellers, almost exclusively white, would determine which land they wanted to sell. After decades of ignoring criticism of that policy, the ANC’s leadership has changed tack, at least rhetorically. It is now advocating a radical policy of land expropriation without compensation.

The unresolved land question in South Africa is a time bomb. One out of every two South Africans was classified as “poor” in 2015, with the poverty rate increasing to 55.5 percent from a low of 53.2 percent in 2011. This translated into more than 30 million out of 55 million South Africans living in poverty in 2015. Ongoing struggles for housing in urban areas and grazing in rural areas reveal the full extent of the country’s poverty crisis. The ANC government now seems to realize that for both its survival as a ruling party and the preservation of democracy, something drastic must be done to reverse the vast inequalities that plague land ownership in South Africa.

When the ANC came to power in 1994, it inherited a deeply uneven playing field. For more than a century, land ownership, access, and use of land had been determined by race. This was the direct result of European colonialism and the arrival of white settlers who violently dispossessed indigenous black Africans of their land. Early settlers established “native” reserves for blacks and, in 1913, the white-led government of the Union of South Africa passed legislation restricting the black majority to just 7 percent of South Africa’s territory, which by then was already overcrowded and overgrazed. This paltry percentage of the land was increased to 13 percent in 1936, a situation that prevailed until the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994.

Even after being relegated to faraway reserves, black South Africans often did not actually own their land. The state owned most of the land in the rural areas of the former reserves, granting only rights of occupation to its residents, rather than the freehold title deeds that were common for white landowners. While white colonialists
were initially committed to promoting a class of African farmers in the reserves, they changed their minds in the late 19th century, when minerals and gold were discovered throughout the country. They saw rural areas, including the reserves, as reservoirs of cheap labor to stimulate capitalist development. Lacking adequate land, black Africans were forced to sell their labor, cheaply, in the booming gold and diamond mines across the country, as well as on farms and as workers in the emerging white-controlled towns and cities.

Meanwhile, in the native reserves (later rechristened as “Bantustans”) the administration of land was in the hands of compliant state-appointed “headmen.” Having fought wars with tribal chiefs, colonialists appointed headmen as administrators of land whenever they defeated chiefs. With the advent of apartheid in 1948, chieftainship was revived — and only chiefs who were prepared to execute the apartheid government’s policies were appointed.

Although headmen and chiefs did not own the land, colonialists and the apartheid state officials made chiefs and headmen their gatekeepers by giving them land allocation powers and tremendous authority that came with it; no rural resident could be allocated land without the approval of chiefs and headmen….

When Nelson Mandela became president of a democratic South Africa in 1994, this is the deeply unequal system he inherited.

Soon after taking power, Mandela’s ANC adopted a land reform program that had three components: land restitution for those who lost their rights in 1913, land redistribution to redress racial imbalances in ownership of commercial land, and land tenure to protect the rights of farm workers and dwellers, labor tenants and those residing in the of the former Bantustans.

Read  the full article in Foreign Policy magazine: This Land is Our Land

 

 

Save Lake Chad With Transaqua: Franklin Roosevelt and Kwame Nkrumah Would Concur

In 1943, after having flown over the Sahara Desert on his way to a Casablanca conference with Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt remarked to his son Elliott, that with the recreation of a lake in the depressed flats in North Africa, “The Sahara would bloom for hundreds of miles.” He also reminded his son of the rivers which arise in Atlas Mountains and disappear under the Desert. “Divert this water flow for irrigation purposes?  It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch!”

Later in the trip, FDR made Winston Churchill apoplectic by discussing plans for anti-imperialist development with the Sultan of Morocco, including mooting American aid in providing the resources to train indigenous scientists and engineers to develop the nation.

FDR’s American System vision for African development was not taken up in the post-war era, but his outlook was echoed by at least two prominent statesmen of the next generation from very different backgrounds—Kwame Nkrumah and President John F. Kennedy. It was no mere coincidence that twenty years later, when Ghanaian President Nkrumah addressed the Organization of African Unity, he would also speak about the “possibility for the Sahara to bloom.” Nkrumah’s vision also would be temporarily crushed.

But today, finally, FDR’s and Nkrumah’s dream is beginning to be realized. A giant step toward greening the desert, and defeating the miserable living conditions which go with it, was taken this February, when a meeting of several African heads of state decided to go ahead with a massive project of water engineering called Transaqua. Although proceeding without American government backing, this project is truly in the spirit of American System development, a long-term investment in transforming the physical environment for the benefit of the general welfare.

It is with that in mind that we present this report by an American who does understand the American System, and has worked persistently for several decades to bring its benefits to Africa.—Nancy Spannaus

The Abuja Conference

After two months, the deliberations from the “International Conference on Saving Lake Chad” held in Abuja, Nigeria from February 26-28, 2018 are still reverberating, and will continue to do so. This historic conference, the first of its kind to be convened on the African continent, was initiated and sponsored by the Nigerian government in conjunction with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), and supported by the United Nations. It has already begun to change the thinking of what is possible for Africa’s future.

From across the globe, hundreds of water experts, hydrologists, scientists, political leaders, advocates for Lake Chad, the African Union, the Africa Development Bank, and the World Bank, joined the heads of state of the Lake Chad Basin nations for three days of deliberation on the best policy to recharge the contracting Lake Chad.

Having served as an advisor to the LCBC and participated in several discussions with the Nigerian government on the necessity for an inter-basin water transfer project to recharge Lake Chad, this author was given a prominent role throughout the entire proceeding, addressing the gathering several times in various capacities. (Written remarks by me were also circulated at the conference and to the press.)

Read entire the article: Save Lake Chad With Transaqua: Presidents Roosevelt and Nkrumah Would Concur

 

Learning About Africa: How History Effects the Present

Here is the announcement for my newest college course on Africa. Also listed is the course outline a class I am currently teaching; “Africa:The Sleeping Giant.”  I will be preparing a third course on “The Effects of British Colonialism on Africa” in the near future.  These courses are 15 hours long, taught over 7-10 weeks in Maryland. 

“Eight Nations Vital to the Development of Sub-Sahara Africa”

By Lawrence Freeman

The African continent encompasses 54 nations and is more than three times the size of the United States. The northern portion of the continent is dominated by the Sahara Desert, equal in area to that of United States. It is the driest, hottest place on earth, relatively barren, and thinly populated. The African nations below this vast desert are designated as “Sub-Saharan Africa” where approximately one billion live, and is expected to double in population by 2050.

All but two of the 48 nations of Sub-Sahara Africa suffered the brutalities of colonialism following centuries of slavery. As a result, Sub-Sahara Africa is the poorest and most underdeveloped region in the world. Unfortunately, following their liberation from colonialism beginning in 1956, these nations did not achieve economic sovereignty. However, now, for the first time since colonial powers occupied Africa, there are signs of progress with the building of new railroads, expanded ports, roads, and new hydro-electric power projects. This has created the potential to transform the continent.

This course will focus on eight Sub-Saharan nations; each unique in their history, development, and their contribution to the growth of Africa. Their combined population of 550 million comprise almost 30% of the land area of Africa.

Join us in examining the following nations from their birth to the present day: Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Over three decades, I have studied the history and developed an in-depth knowledge of Africa as a researcher, analyst, writer, and consultant. Sadly, most Americans know little about Africa, due to a limited number educational courses, and a reliance on the media. I hope to increase your understanding by sharing my accumulated knowledge with you.

 

 

“Africa The Sleeping Giant” Course Outline:

1-Discovering the Africa Continent

2-Africa: Home to Mankind

3-Man Is Not a Monkey

4-The Great Bantu Migration

5-Early Civilizations

6-Europe Discovers Africa

7-Slavery Rips the Soul of the Continent

8-Colonialism, Exploitation, and Genocide

9-Economic Sovereignty and the Nation State

10-Africa’s Future is Development