The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a big dam facility that is constructed on the Nile River in Ethiopia. While for Ethiopia, this dam is associated with economic profits since it will contribute to the creation of reservoir and hydroelectric power station, thus giving the country a real rebirth, for Egypt that is located downstream, this project can mean a great economic decline. The construction of the GERD can cause a real catastrophe for Egypt because the Nile water is the most valuable natural source of water in this dry region, where 95 percent of the population lives. Therefore, due to the decision of Ethiopia to build the GERD on the Nile River, its relations with Egypt dramatically escalated because it is evident that access to water indeed is a matter of life and death for the population of Egypt. Egypt fears that the construction of the dam will affect the water level in the Nile and cause drought. It is especially damaging for Egypt since currently, its fragile economy has just started showing the subtle improvements after a series of reforms.
Yet, even though the quarrels about the GERD started back in 2010 when Ethiopia announced the construction project, there is still an ongoing conflict about the GERD. Now, Egypt fears that the Ethiopian plan to build a huge hydropower dam on the Nile will reduce the country’s access to water. Currently, the minimum necessity for the population of Egypt is 55.5 billion cubic meters of water that comes from the Nile. Even though the capacity of the GERD is estimated at 74 billion cubic meters of water that the dam can hold, and this number is bigger than the annual amount of water that Egypt consumes, Ethiopia is still confident that the dam will not negatively influence its neighbor that is located downstream of the river.
This year, Egypt and Ethiopia will either reach an agreement and facilitate cooperative relations or become diplomatically unsteady. Earlier, Egyptian and Ethiopian diplomats agreed that Ethiopia would continue to build hydropower plants, paying attention to the interests of Egypt at the same time. Egypt, in its turn, confirmed the right of Ethiopia to support the economic development of the country. The parties are trying to resolve the conflict as Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian Prime Minister has visited Cairo. Still, both countries are scared to face domestic instability, also having nationalistic views. There are, however, no perspectives that the political dilemma will be addressed soon, resulting in the benefits for the participants of the conflict since the stakes are high for all countries.
The political perspective of the construction of the GERD is also complicated as the project tends to influence several countries at a time. Sudan, a country that is located close to Ethiopia, initially supported its neighbor and denounced the construction of the dam. Yet, as Sudan has understood the long-standing potential of the GERD that can bring the country an opportunity to get protected from the seasonal floods and improve farming, it has switched its position and now views the GERD as the strategically important object that can facilitate the realization of Sudan’s potential as a “breadbasket” that can feed its African and Arab neighbors.
Yet, apart from the states that are directly neighboring the territory where the GERD is going to be constructed, other countries also have their own political interests regarding this matter. For example, the UAE is likely to be involved in the situation as well, intending to support the slow filling of the GERD because it invested in the domestic stability of Cairo. In this case, it is clear that the construction of the GERD is an issue of high importance that can influence the entire Middle Eastern and African geopolitics. U.S. policymakers are also concerned about this situation because it results in transboundary water disputes and requires the involvement of the EU.