Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa to Djibouti Railway: A Model for the Role of Infrastructure in Fighting Hunger

Below is a useful article from EIR magazine that correctly emphasizes the role of infrastructure in providing food for Africa. The authors highlight Ethiopia, an East African nation that has aggressively pursed the expansion of infrastructure to advance their economy.

November 16, 2020

Click to access 19-25_4745.pdf

No More Lies, No More Anti-China Propaganda: There is No China-Africa ‘Debt-trap’

June 20, 2020

China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) presented an interesting and useful webinar entitled : Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics, using research presented from a Working Paper #39 and Policy Brief #46. View: CARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics

In response to China’s growing economic and political influence in the world, especially on the African continent, various propaganda outlets located in the West have launched a new assault on China. Their line of attack is to malign China and African leaders with the false narrative that China is intentionally luring African nations into a ‘debt-trap’ in order to seize control of their natural resources. This cynical view of China’s alliance with African nations flows from the age old doctrine of “geo-politics” that only perceives nations as either winners or losers in a fixed zero-sum view of the world.  In this evil world view, stronger powers, hegemons believe they can only maintain their supremacy by having their foot on the neck of weaker nations. The “geo-political” doctrine rejects the notion that all nations share a common interest.

Misinformation or Disinformation

As Deborah Brautigam, director of CARI has stated before, there is no evidence, none, not one single case of China using debt to seize control of an African nation’s assets. “We found no “asset seizures” and despite contract clauses requiring arbitration, no evidence of the use of courts to enforce payments, or application of penalty interest rates.” Despite no substantiation of China using debt as a weapon against African nations, the ‘debt-trap’ mantra is repeated by either misinformed individuals, including Africans, or by those who are deliberately disseminating disinformation with malice.

The CARI working paper reports the following:

“The rating agency Moody’s warned that countries ‘rich in natural resources, like Angola, Zambia, and Republic of the Congo, or with strategically important infrastructure, like ports or railways such as Kenya, are most vulnerable to the risk of losing control over important assets in negotiations with Chinese creditors.’ These assumptions of a malign China were repeated in publications like The New York Times, which contended that Chinese loans “frequently use national assets as collateral” and require refinancing ‘every couple years’ (our Africa data supports neither of these statements).” (emphasis added)

If there is any honesty or integrity left in our duplicitous culture, all claptrap about China’ alleged ‘debt-trap’ as a nefarious attempt to gain control of Africa’s wealth should cease immediately! If one examines the long history of China’s relationship with Africa and the more recent twenty year period, it is clear that China desires to resolve issues with African nations through consultation. China may choose other means of responding to payment difficulties, but there is no evidence that they want to take over African holdings, contrary to prevalent popular opinion. Read: Chinese ‘debt-trap’ Propaganda Exposed-Time to End Ignorance & Prejudice Against China in Africa

Debt Cancellation

As COVID-19 spreads in Africa, nations are struggling to survive economically and simultaneously defeat the deadly virus.  Debt service is onerous and must be suspended indefinitely or cancelled, as leaders of many Africans nation have rightly insisted. According to Dr. Brautigam, from 2000-2018, China has made loan commitments of $152 billion, and of Africa’ total external debt, China holds 17%, while the World Bank hold 18%, and private lenders 31%.  Thus, China will and has already engaged in debt relief, but will do it differently than western institutions like the Paris Club and World Bank.

“Our [CARI] study found that between 2000 and 2019, China has cancelled at least US$ 3.4 billion of debt in Africa. There is no “China, Inc.”: for interest-bearing loans, treatment for inter-governmental debt and Chinese company loans are negotiated separately, and often loan-by-loan rather than for the entire portfolio. While rescheduling by increasing the repayment period is common, changes in interest rates, reductions in principal (“haircuts”), or refinancing are not. We found that China has restructured or refinanced approximately US$ 15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 20190…Chinese lenders prefer to address restructuring quietly, on a bilateral basis, tailoring programs to each situation.”   

China, up this point has only cancelled zero interest loans, which represent only 5% of loans from China, and are issued from China’s Ministry of Commerce. It is unlikely that there will be unilateral debt suspension.  Thus, we can expect that China will negotiate debt relief bilaterally with each nation, and each loan reviewed separately.

Even if debt cancellation is continued into 2021, which has not yet been agreed to, it will be insufficient. The level of investment required to meet Africa’s’ minimal infrastructure needs is in the trillions of dollars, which belies the “geo-political” nonsense of zero-sum assumptions.  Debt relief must be accompanied by issuance of credit for infrastructure and related sectors of production, otherwise Africa and the world will suffer from the spread of COVID-19 and future zoonotic diseases. Poverty is a co-factor for all diseases. Lack of electricity is a co-factor for the spread of disease and hunger, as is the lack of clean water, and inadequate transportation.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative over recent years has begun to address Africa’s infrastructure deficit, but much, much more is required. Collaboration between the U.S. and China on the development of Africa would be consequential for the continent.

I have addressed this issue in earlier posts: World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19, New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

ViewCARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics

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

China Investing in Africa’s Future, Why Isn’t the US?

January 5, 2019

In the article below you can read about China’s strategic investment in making Djibouti’s port a major port in Africa and the Middle East. The West can criticize as much as it likes, but China, not the US and Europe, is building vitally needed infrastructure in Africa. Without infrastructure Africa will not develop and progress. U.S policy known as  “Prosper Africa” is cynical joke.

NEWS

In strategic Djibouti, a microcosm of China’s growing foothold in Africa

By Max Bearak
December 30, 2019

Excerpts:

DJIBOUTI — Above ground in this tiny but strategically located country, signs of China’s presence are everywhere.

Chinese entities have financed and built Africa’s biggest port, a railway to Ethiopia and the country’s first overseas naval base here. Under the sea, they are building a cable that will transmit data across a region that spans from Kenya to Yemen. The cable will connect to an Internet hub housing servers mostly run by China’s state-owned telecom companies.

Beijing’s extensive investments in Djibouti are a microcosm of how China has rapidly gained a strategic foothold across the continent. Western countries, including Africa’s former colonizers, for decades have used hefty aid packages to leverage trade and security deals, but Chinese-financed projects have brought huge infrastructural development in less than a generation.

The construction is fueled mostly by lending from China’s state-run banks. Spindles of Chinese-paved roads have unfurled across the continent, along with huge bridges, new airports, dams and power plants as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 152-country Belt and Road Initiative.

Overall, Chinese companies have invested twice as much money between 2014 and 2018 in African countries as American companies, spending $72.2 billion, according to an analysis by Ernst & Young.

“The Chinese are thinking far into the long-term in Djibouti and Africa in general,” said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia who was also the State Department’s desk officer for Djibouti as far back as the late 1960s. “Djibouti is one node in an economic chain that stretches across the northern rim of the Indian Ocean, from ports in Cambodia to Sri Lanka to Pakistan. They have a grand, strategic plan. We don’t.”

In Djibouti, that strategic plan is all the more evident because of the country’s location at the entrance to the Red Sea, where about 10 percent of oil exports and 20 percent of commercial goods pass through the narrow strait right off Djibouti’s coast on their way to and from the Suez Canal.

That location has made it a crucial way-point for undersea cables, which transmit data between continents. China’s investment in Internet infrastructure here comes as the region surrounding Djibouti is just starting to come online, including some places that are entirely reliant on Djibouti as a transit point for data transmission…

“Yes, our debt to China is 71% of our GDP, but we needed that infrastructure,” Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Djibouti’s foreign affairs minister, said in a phone interview on the sidelines of a meeting in New York earlier this month, where Djibouti was pushing to gain a non permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

“It was quite natural that we raise our partnership with China. Neither Europe nor America were ready to build the infrastructure we needed. We’re projecting our country into the future and looking after the well-being of our people. Even the United States has trillions of dollars in debt to China, you know,” Youssouf said.

The most significant investment China has made in Djibouti is Doraleh Port, Africa’s biggest and deepest. As with Internet through the data center, a full 90 percent of landlocked Ethiopia’s imports now transit Djibouti, giving the minuscule country, with a population of less than a million, leverage over its gigantic, 100-million-strong neighbor.

Read the full article

Chinese ‘debt-trap’ Propaganda Exposed-Time to End Ignorance & Prejudice Against China in Africa

(Courtesy of Quartz Africa)

December 24, 2019

Deborah Brautigam, an expert on China-Africa relations, exposes the fraud of China’s debt-trap diplomacy in her report: A Critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ Brautigam, who is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for China-Africa Research Initiative, writes unequivocally that there is no evidence of an intentional effort  to trap African nations into owing debt to China. China is not manipulating African nations in an attempt to control their resources. Ironically this is what the Western institutions did to African nations  following their independence from colonialism. Whether out of ignorance and/or prejudice, Africans and Westerners have been repeating unfounded propaganda that China is the new colonizer of Africa. It is time to finally end this malicious mantra.

Excerpts:

“The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies curates a database on Chinese lending to Africa (Brautigam & Hwang, 2016). It has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberately entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’. Angola, for example, has borrowed a huge amount from China. Of course, many of these loans are backed by Angola’s oil exports, but this is a commercial transaction. China is not getting huge strategic advantage in that relationship. Similarly, others have examined Chinese lending elsewhere in the world – some 3000 cases – and while some projects have been cancelled or renegotiated, none, aside from the single port in Sri Lanka, has been used to support the idea that the Chinese are seizing strategic assets when countries run into trouble with loan repayment (Kratz, Feng, & Wright, 2019).

The evidence so far, including the Sri Lankan case, shows that the drumbeat of alarm about Chinese banks’ funding of infrastructure across the BRI and beyond is overblown. In a study we conducted using our data on Chinese lending and African debt distress through 2017, China was a major player in only three low-income African countries that were considered by the IMF to be debt distressed or on the verge of debt distress (Eom, Brautigam, & Benabdallah, 2018). A similar country-by-country analysis that included use of our data shows that the Chinese are, by and large, not the major player in African debt distress (Jubilee Debt Campaign, 2018). Therefore, the role of China in African debt distress was limited when one remembers that there are 54 countries in Africa.”

Read: A Critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap diplomacy’

Fruitful Cooperation: Ethiopia and China’s Belt and Road

Celebrating the inauguration of the new Addis Ababa to Djibouti railway on October 6, 2016, which I attended

 

China-Ethiopia dialogue highlights sustainable investment under BRI

BEIJING, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) — Ethiopia is hoping to attract more sustainable investment from Chinese enterprises as fruitful cooperations have been carried out under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

At the China-Ethiopia High-Level Dialogue on Sustainable Investment held in Beijing on Friday, both Chinese and Ethiopian officials expressed their hope to consolidate collaborations to boost the achievements of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Aschalew Tadesse Mecheso, a senior official with Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), said Ethiopia looks forward to more investment in the sectors of information and communication technology and light industries so as to create more jobs for young people who account for around 70 percent of the country’s population.

Aiming to facilitate knowledge exchanges and build networks to promote sustainable investment in Ethiopia, the event attracted over 200 participants from governments, industries, development agencies and think tanks.

Guo Xuejun with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway as an example of the fruitful cooperations between the two countries under the BRI.

Apart from the railway that has significantly shortened the time of transporting goods from Ethiopia to Djibouti, he also mentioned a new economic cluster that is emerging along the railway with the construction and development of several industrial parks.

China looks forward to working with Ethiopia to initiate more connectivity projects that are high-quality, sustainable, resilient, affordable, inclusive, accessible and broadly beneficial, Guo said.

The country is also dedicated to promoting trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, opposes protectionism and aims to make greater contributions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.

Beate Trankmann, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China, said the BRI’s key projects, which focus on connectivity and integration, could help unlock the funding and know-how to fulfill the SDGs, if relevant investments follow sustainability criteria and principles of the SDGs.

At the event, organized by the UNDP and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China’s embassy in Ethiopia and the EIC, investors also discussed the opportunities and challenges to invest in Ethiopia

It Cannot Be Denied: China Helping Africa Realize Its Dream

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L), Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh (C), and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (R) on Dec. 9, 2018, inaugurate a Chinese-contracted major road project as the Ethiopian government aspires to connect strategic towns in western Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

November 28, 2019

China to help Africa realize “African dream” early: Chinese state councilor

Xinhua|-November 23, 2019  

China is willing to make every effort to help Africa get out of the “underdevelopment trap” and realize the “African dream” at an early date, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here on Saturday.

Wang made the remarks while attending the Group of 20 (G20) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

According to him, lack of fund is the biggest challenge to Africa’s development, with an annual infrastructure investment gap of 100 billion U.S. dollars. China’s infrastructure projects in Africa generate more than 50 billion U.S. dollars in revenue every year, he said.

For example, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway has created nearly 50,000 local jobs, driving Kenya’s economic growth by about 1.5 percent, Wang said, adding that China-Africa cooperation is part of South-South cooperation and is mutual help between friends and brothers.

China attaches great importance to the debt issue, actively helps African countries improve their debt management capacity and provides necessary support when they encounter difficulties, Wang said. The two sides have made positive progress in jointly building the Belt and Road with high quality, he added.

The Belt and Road Initiative is highly compatible with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and development strategies of African countries, forming a strong synergy for promoting common development, Wang said.

In order to better help Africa achieve sustainable development, it is necessary to focus on solving the three major development bottlenecks, namely lagging infrastructure, lack of talent and capital shortage, while solving the three livelihood issues of employment, food and clothing and health, he added.

In this regard, China will adhere to the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests and the principle of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith, and work tirelessly to help Africa develop, Wang said.

China has helped Africa build more than 10,000 km of roads, over 6,000 km of railways and a large number of libraries, schools, hospitals and other livelihood facilities throughout the continent, greatly promoting local development, Wang said.

Meanwhile, more than half of the eight action plans and supporting financing announced at the Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last year have been implemented or seen concrete arrangements.

He called on developed countries to honor their commitments to Africa and provide tangible assistance in capital and technology among others. China is ready to work with all parties to give full play to respective advantages, jointly promote peace, stability and development in Africa and help African countries realize the “African dream” at an early date, he said.

Read: China Helps Africa To Realize African Dream

 

Africa and China Cooperate on Development and Eliminating Poverty

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu

November 8, 2019

Cabinet applauds Chinese investment push for attracting R116bn

31st October 2019 BY: AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

The South African government on Thursday applauded the growing trade and economic relations with the People’s Republic of China, which has led to at least 88 Chinese companies investing massively in the country’s economy.

Addressing media in Cape Town on the outcomes of a Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said the growing two-way trade between Beijing and Pretoria has led to Chinese companies investing a capital expenditure of R116-billion from 2003…

Read: South Africa Cabinet Applauds Chinese Investment

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China’s capacity building support wins acclaim in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — Ethiopia on Monday commended China’s support to the East African country’s capacity development endeavors as the two countries set to mark 50 years anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year.

Tilahun Sarka, Director General of Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company (EDR), stressed the vital importance of China’s capacity development support at an event on Monday that marks the start of railway operations training for 47 Ethiopian train conductors.

Noting ongoing knowledge transfer activities that are jointly implemented by ERD, the Chinese government and the consortium of Chinese companies, Sarka also urged the new batch of trainees to effectively study train operations along with Chinese experts so as to realize the Ethiopian government’s ambition in building the East African country’s capacity in railway technology…

ReadChina’s capacity building support wins acclaim in Ethiopia

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President Xi Jinping Addressing China International Import Expo:  The Common Good of Humanity and Eliminating Poverty

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Second China International Import Expo, President Xi Jinping discussed the continuing process of “reform and opening up,” but focused his remarks on an appeal for the world to come together for the common good.

“Of the problems confronting the world economy, none can be resolved by a single country alone. We must all put the common good of humanity first rather than place one’s own interest above the common interest of all. We must have a more open mindset and take more open steps, and work together to make the pie of the global market even bigger….

“All problems could be settled in the spirit of equality, mutual understanding and accommodation. We need to promote development through opening-up and deepen exchanges and cooperation among us. We need to join hands with each other instead of letting go of each others hands. We need to tear down walls, not to erect walls.”

“China’s development, viewed through the lens of history, is an integral part of the lofty cause of human progress. China will reach out its arms and offer countries in the world more opportunities of market, investment and growth. Together, we can achieve development for all. The Chinese civilization has always valued peace under heaven and harmony among nations. Let us all work in that spirit and contribute to an open global economy and to a community with a shared future for mankind.”

President Xi Jinping delivered his keynote address “in front of a countdown screen for winning the country’s battle against poverty,” Xinhua reported. China has so far lifted some 850 million people out of poverty, and intends to do the same with the remaining 20 million by the end of 2020. Xinhua went on to report that “Xi said China is ready to share its poverty relief experience with other countries and jointly build a community with a shared future for humanity featuring common development and the elimination of poverty.”

Read my recent post: CGTN: China Reaches New Stage of Development With CIIE

Ethiopia to Djibouti Railroad Successfully Growing Ethiopia’s Economy

Ethiopia to Djibouti Railroad Successfully Growing Ethiopia’s Economy

The Chinese-African built railroad from Addis-Ababa to Djibouti has been a success, as I knew it would. Inaugurated in October 2016, it has  allowed Ethiopia to effectively overcome being a landlocked nation. Railroads increase productivity, create growth, build cities, and establish new manufacturing-agricultural centers. Africa will be transformed-industrialized when it is able to generate hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electricity and build tens of thousands of kilometers of rail lines connecting major capitals, cities, and ports across the continent. Ethiopia has been a leader in economic growth by investing in vitally needed infrastructure, such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD, to begin operation in late 2020.

Railroads across Ethiopia will increase its import and export capability.

Roundup: Ethiopia-Djibouti railway adds impetus to Ethiopia’s agricultural economy

ADDIS ABABA, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — The Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has won acclaim for facilitating landlocked Ethiopia’s import-export necessities.

For the past more than one year, it has transported much-needed agricultural inputs to Ethiopia’s agriculture-dominated economy.

Tilahun Sarka, Director-General of Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company (EDR), said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the 752 km-long Africa’s first transnational electrified railway is leveraging the smooth transportation of Ethiopia’s major import and export commodities, mainly fertilizer and wheat.

“The railway is showing major progress in terms of facilitating Ethiopia’s basic import-export activities as it significantly reduced both the travel cost and time from landlocked Ethiopia to ports in its neighboring Djibouti,” Sarka told Xinhua.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway commenced its commercial operations for both passenger and freight services in January last year, eventually connecting landlocked Ethiopia to ports in the Red Sea nation of Djibouti.

The EDR director underscored the railway’s achievements over the past one and a half years, with particular emphasis on easing the pressure in transporting the much-needed imported agricultural and food security inputs, mainly fertilizer and wheat, from ports in Djibouti all the way to the Lebu Railway Station on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Figures from ERD show that the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has been able to carry more than 70,000 tons of fertilizer from the Djibouti port to Ethiopia over the past few months, as the East African country embarked with its main harvesting season since May.

“Fertilizer is a very important commodity to Ethiopia’s socio-economic well-being,” Sarka said, adding “It is by far considered as a major imported priority item by the Ethiopian government.”

Ethiopia – Africa’s second populous nation with about 109 million total population, according to the World Bank’s latest report – is an agrarian economy.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which described Ethiopia as “one of the top-performing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa with an average growth rate of 11 percent over the last seven years,” dubbed the agriculture sector as “the mainstay of the Ethiopian economy, and exports almost entirely relies on agricultural commodities.”

Sarka, who dubbed fertilizer as a “political cargo,” also said that “a failure to import the much-needed fertilizer would adversely affect Ethiopia’s overall security, as far as igniting public uproar against the Ethiopian government.

Sarka also emphasized the joint Ethiopian government and EDR’s future plan that envisaged “to significantly boost the railway’s share in the transportation of fertilizer to the country.”

“Both the Ethiopian government and EDR give particular emphasis to the smooth transportation of fertilizers from the Djibouti port to Ethiopia, as well as the export of other export-bound agricultural commodities from Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia to the port,” Sarka said.

Ethiopia imported a total of about 1.3 million tons of fertilizer during the just-concluded Ethiopian 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to figures from the Ethiopian government.

Built by two Chinese companies, the first 320-km of the project from Sebeta to Mieso was carried out by the China Railway Group Limited (CREC), while the remaining 423-km from Mieso to Djibouti port section was built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway is presently managed by a consortium of Chinese companies – CREC and CCECC – for a period of six years undertaking railway operation and maintenance management activities.

According to Sarka, the six-year contract was given to the two Chinese firms mainly due to the shortage of electrified railway operation and management experience in the two involved countries.

Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway

Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Artist rendition of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD

Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Lawrence K Freeman

October 14, 2019

Completion and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-(GERD) will profoundly affect not only the future of Ethiopia, but all of the Horn of Africa, and the entire African continent. It reflects the bold visionary thinking that characterizes Ethiopia’s unwavering determination to eradicate poverty in the second largest nation on the continent with 103 million people. Ethiopia has been a leader in economic growth for the last decade due to its unparalleled commitment to constructing new infrastructure projects. Although an emerging nation, Ethiopia with assistance from China, completed the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti railroad in October 2016. This is the first and only electrified rail line in sub-Saharan Africa- (SSA), reducing travel time from several days by truck to hours by rail, effectively freeing Ethiopia from the limitations of a landlocked nation via Djibouti’s port.

Ethiopia’s former Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi, who conceptualized the developmental state, proposed building a dam on the Blue Nile, laying the first foundation stone on April 2, 2011. Thus, initiating the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile that will be the largest in Africa. The GERD will be 175 meters tall, 1,800 meters wide, with a reservoir of 79 billion cubic meters-(BCM), more than twice the size of the Hoover Dam in the US. It will have the potential to generate upwards of 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Upon completion, Ethiopia will be the largest net exporter of electricity in Africa with transmission lines to its neighbors that include Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. Ethiopia will also become second only to South Africa in power generation in SSA, as it strives to achieve its interim goal of producing 15,000 MW. The GERD, self-financed by bonds sold to the Ethiopian people, is not only a source of tremendous pride, but an indispensable component of Ethiopia’s resolve to expand its manufacturing sector and become a “middle income” nation by 2025. A nation must have abundant and accessible electricity in order to power an industrialized economy. With more than 60% of its population deprived of access to electricity, and energy demands growing every year, Ethiopia wisely realized that utilizing the potential hydro-power of the Blue Nile to drive its economic growth was not an option; but a necessity.

Sovereignty Superior to Colonialism

 Egypt is accusing Ethiopia of violating the 1959 agreement for utilization of water from the Nile River, which stipulated that 55.5 BCM of waters be allocated to Egypt, 18.5 BCM to Sudan and that no other nation could interfere with the flow of water in the Nile.  There is no basis in law or physical topography for Ethiopia to adhere to this agreement for the following reasons:

  • The 1959 water agreement is a rewrite of the British imperialist 1929 water treaty, when Egypt was a British colony that governed Sudan under the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1956).
  • The Blue Nile flowing from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands that joins the White Nile in Khartoum, provides 85% of the Nile water as it travels north through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Ethiopia, as an independent nation that was never colonialized, was not a signatory to either water agreement.
  • Ethiopia has the sovereign right and obligation to utilize its natural resources, in this case water, to improve the living conditions of its people.

The Nile River, although the longest in the world at 6,650 kilometers, is not the most voluminous. Historically, the Nile was the only water way to cross the Sahara Desert from SSA. Today ten nations in Eastern and Central Africa are part of the Nile Basin with their total population approaching 500 million, whose present and future needs exceed the 84 BCM of Nile water. For development of the Nile Basin, it is urgently required that:

  • a new approach to water management for the region, which supersedes the archaic colonial agreement.
  • a new system for generating additional water. A crash program to create billions of cubic meters of fresh water through desalination is an obvious solution.

In essence, a “second Nile” must be created. Nuclear energy, utilizing its higher heat source, would be ideal for removing salt through evaporation, and, equally as important, supplying thousands of megawatts of power to energy-starved nations.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize 2020 (Courtesy of MGN.TV)

Shared Common Interest

The Declaration of Principles, signed in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 by the heads of state of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia calls for cooperation among the three nations to resolve disputes concerning the GERD among themselves. The report states: “The Three Countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.”

The shared vision of the Nile Basin should be to promote prosperity for all the nations involved. The common shared interest of the upstream and downstream nations is one and the same: to uplift millions of Africans out of poverty and present the expanding youth population with economic opportunities to obtain a meaningful and productive life that secures a future for their families.

 Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shourky warned Ethiopia: “Ethiopia’s moving forward with the operation and filling of the Renaissance Dam is unacceptable and a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles and will have negative consequences for stability in the region.” Within Egypt threats of military action have recently resurfaced, but such unwarranted aggression is highly unlikely, and would be roundly condemned by the international community.

According to Xinhua News, Egypt is looking for the United States to play an “international instrumental role,” a position presently not supported by the US State Department. Egypt’s attempt to bring in an outside party to mediate disputes concerning the Nile waters is in direct violation of the Declaration of Principles.

Exercising its sovereign rights, Ethiopia has already completed 60% of the construction of the GERD, and although there have been delays, it is expected to begin producing electricity by the end of 2020. Egypt has no choice but to accept this reality and continue to engage discussions regarding the management of the Nile.  There are substantive legitimate issues respecting the effects of the GERD on Egypt, a downstream nation that is almost totally dependent on Nile water. However, Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Blue Nile is inviolate. In 2018 the National Independent Scientific Research Group-(NISRG) was established to discuss the filling of the dam’s reservoir. The NISRG consisting of scientists from Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, has met several times, and has reported to the Minister of Water Affairs of each nation.

How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.

Read:  Modernghana.com Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political Economic Analyst for Africa with thirty years of experience in Africa promoting infrastructure development policies.

Can IGAD Achieve Peace Without Economic Development?

September 17, 2019
{Below is a provocative article that challenges the accepted method of achieving peace without economic development. I have always strongly believed that true peace and sovereignty can only be obtained, if the common-shared interest of the parties involved is a the center of negotiations. Improving the living conditions of all the people involved in the conflict is essential for long term viable peace. For example, after the unnecessary separation of Sudan, the West, which helped engineer the creation of South Sudan, failed miserably to build up the economy of the newly created South Sudan. As a result, the people of South Sudan are suffering massively from horrific living conditions. While I do not agree with Mekki Elmograbi’s approach of solely relying on the private sector and the so called free market, I concur with the thrust of his argument. It is clear to me, that the search for peace without economic development is a fool’s errand, and will not succeed.}

igad logo big

By Mekki ELMOGRABI

Could the endless search for peace be a trap? Yes, because “sustainable peace objectives with high standards of security and stability” is the bait that entices stakeholders to ignore the need for private sector development and regional economic integration until peace is achieved.

“We hear questions like peace through development! The maxim is good in theory but in reality, political peace is touted at the cost of economic integration. I no longer believe in everlasting peace as a condition to development or economic growth. In a simple economy, market people could pay to build a police station to increase security in border areas. IGAD, in the meantime, when it is not preoccupied with the “peace trap” it can advise governments on how to allocate the taxes from borders markets to local roads and how to create security in the area. Feasibly, IGAD and AU can hold peace talks and workshops at borders to promote markets and countryside African resorts rather than five-star hotels in the cities.”

Read: IGAD and Peace Trap!