Ethiopia begun generating electricity for the first time from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), marking a significant milestone in the contentious multi-billion-dollar project.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, joined by high-ranking officials on Sunday formally launched the power production by pressing switch buttons to start it.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project, but it has been dogged by a conflict with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan since construction began in 2011.
Abiy described the inauguration as “the birth of a new era” and “good news for our continent and the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together.”
He said his country’s “main interest is to bring light to 60 percent of the population who is suffering in darkness, to save the labour of our mothers who are carrying wood on their backs in order to get energy.”
“As you can see, this water will generate energy while flowing as it previously flowed to Sudan and Egypt, unlike the rumours that say the Ethiopian people and government are damming the water to starve Egypt and Sudan.” the PM added.
The $4.2 billion project is expected to generate more than 5,000 megawatts of power, more than tripling Ethiopia’s current generation capacity.
Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia’s downstream neighbours view the dam as a concern because they rely on Nile waters, although Addis Ababa considers it as vital for the country’s electricity and prosperity.
Both have long pushed for a definitive agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, but African Union-sponsored discussions have yet to yield a breakthrough.