Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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WONDWOSEN Michago Seide, Lund University

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has changed Ethiopia’s image, even before its completion. Ethiopia is no longer a mere ‘Water Tower of the Horn of Africa’ but a ‘water user’ and ‘energy hub.’ Ethiopia is no more to be seen as a ‘water catchment space’ for the societies downstream, but a ‘water user place.’ It has also changed the idealized interpretation of ‘virgin’ and ‘unused’ land to that of ‘productive land’ that will generate abundant electricity to light the Horn of Africa and beyond. Ethiopians are now admired and applauded for taming the lion as Egyptians did in 1960 during the construction of the Aswan High Dam (AHD).The GERD portrays Ethiopia as a ‘highly-voltage lamp’ that will light up Africa. Ethiopia has steadily constructed the energy discourse and has been accepted by many as the ideal land of the ‘Energy Hub’ in Africa. Ethiopia has managed to promote this imagery in the Horn of Africa and beyond.’ In fact, Ethiopia has successfully enshrined this imagery at the continental and global level. Energy security has become a concern for all countries; in many, it tops the policy agenda. There is a rush to go green for the sake of saving our planet. Hydropower is a clean and renewable source of energy with low emissions. It is the best tool to fight climate change. According to the World Energy Council, “Hydropower is the leading renewable source for electricity generation globally, supplying 71% of all renewable electricity.” The GERD will contribute, increasing Africa’s capacity to harness its hydropower potential. Ethiopia promotes the GERD through publicity that promotes clean and renewable energy and fits well with the global climate change narrative. Ethiopia is one of the few African countries that has come up with a Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) document in 2011. As a result, Ethiopia’s image percolates in the minds and heart of the world with almost no objection to the GERD from other African countries or the West. Recently these western ambassadors, diplomats and ministers have been flooding in to see the GERD. The Ambassadors of the US, Japan, Canada, the High-level delegation of Saudi Arabia and other countries may have presaged the visit of the Egyptian water minister, and all of these official visits build a spirit of cooperation and development, auguring well for the entire Nile Basin’s future. The energy giant imagery has been accepted by many countries throughout the world. That is why Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan and South Sudan (soon) have jointly invested in infrastructural development for the transmission and importing of electricity from Ethiopia. Sudan and Djibouti are already importing electricity and asking for more.