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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Could Shift Longstanding Power Relationships

The Nile has historically been known as the world’s longest international river. It passes through 11 countries. The current distribution of its waters is limited to only two – Egypt and Sudan – under the 1959 Nile Agreement. Out of the total annual flow of the Nile, measured at Egypt’s Aswan Dam as 84 billion cubic metres, Egypt takes 66% of the water and Sudan 22%, and the remaining 12% goes to evaporation. For its part, Ethiopia sees the dam as a matter of national pride and a symbol of its economic success. It has received some support from Sudan, which hopes to buy cheap hydropower. The dam may also help to prevent seasonal floods, regulate the river flows and extend the life span of Sudan’s dams by preventing silting. Several other White Nile riparian countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda also support Ethiopia’s right to build the dam as they don’t want Egypt to be seen as owning the river. The dam has increased the urgency of reaching an agreement among the Blue Nile countries. This could open the way for basin-based cooperation among all the Nile countries, a process that’s been blocked by rivalry between Egypt and Ethiopia.