Ethiopia celebrated the first anniversary of the launching of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project on April 2, 2012. A piece on A Week in the Horn discusses the significance of the undertaking and its anniversary. Read it below. 

The Grand Renaissance Dam one year on

The grand renaissance dam has turned one year this past week. The day was marked throughout Ethiopia with festivities. It was a year of enthusiasm and great expectations for Ethiopians from all walks of life and every corner of the world. The level of enthusiasm the launching of the dam generated a year ago is as alive today and there is every reason to believe this will continue to be the case years – even decades from now. This, after all, is the beginning of the renaissance of Ethiopia and a harbinger of good days to come. The launching of the grand renaissance dam is a milestone in Ethiopians’ quest for regaining their glorious past in more ways than one.

Politically speaking, the Renaissance Dam signifies the collective will of the peoples of Ethiopia to caste off the debilitating image that has long characterized them as poster children of hunger and starvation. It showed the unshakable resolve of the people and government of Ethiopia to capitalize on the monumental gains they have achieved since the heralding of the democratization process a little over two decades ago. It was a testament to the efficacy of the political experiment started 20 years ago to put in place a system of governance that can accommodate the diversity of the people of Ethiopia. It is a living proof of the great distance that Ethiopia has come from the untold misery inflicted upon its people by successive despotic regimes to a progressively growing, vibrant pluralistic society that it is now becoming.

The Renaissance Dam has brought together tens of millions of Ethiopians irrespective of ethnicity, religion, political persuasion or background. It has proved to be a common bond for the success of which all Ethiopians are firmly united. This has clearly shown that when it comes to ensuring the rebirth of a prosperous and democratic Ethiopia, Ethiopians have little, if any, time for petty squabbles that often permeated our politics in the past.

Economically speaking, not only will the completion of the Grand Renaissance Dam go a long way in increasing the country’s capacity to generate green energy, it is also a testament to the success and effectiveness of the various economic policies the government has put in place to ensure sustainable economic growth and development. What the Dam signifies more than anything else is the fact that Ethiopia has now the capacity to finance huge infrastructural projects without having to worry about others putting pressure on its development efforts for one reason or another. The Grand Renaissance Dam is a project that is wholly owned and financed by Ethiopians. Billions of birr has already been contributed by Ethiopians as a display of unshakable resolve to carry this noble mission through to a successful completion. Gone, indeed, are the days when Ethiopians have to knock at others’ doors to secure a green light for carrying out any national development project. It is this sense of self-sufficiency that makes this undertaking all the more important.

But more importantly, the Renaissance Dam is also about reclaiming Ethiopia’s glorious past through our efforts to extricate the country out of the back-breaking poverty that has characterized it for the last many decades. The Grand Renaissance Dam certainly is a monumental engineering feat in its own right but as the name itself implies, the Dam is also about ushering in Ethiopia’s Renaissance—a day when all Ethiopians would be able to hold their chins up with pride on their success at regaining Ethiopia’s rightful place in the community of nations. As Prime Meles aptly put it, the Grand Renaissance Dam is not by any means the largest project in Ethiopia’s quest towards ensuring its national rebirth, but only a great page in the first chapter of that journey. And as such, the undertaking to build the Dam is a harbinger of ever larger and more impressive development projects to come.

……while anniversary celebrated

It is just a year since Prime Minister Meles Zenawi laid the corner stone of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a multi-billion dollar hydro electric project being constructed on the Abay River, the Blue Nile, in the Guba woreda of Benishangul Gumuz Regional State. The National Committee for Public Mobilization celebrated the anniversary on 1st April with various events, both in Addis Ababa Stadium and at the project site, designed to encourage to strengthen even further the already overwhelming public support for the project. On the eve of the anniversary a football match was held between a team of higher officials and prominent artists and between the two most prominent premier league teams, St. George and Ethiopian Coffee. At the conclusion of the day, trophies were awarded to the winning teams and to the best players. Prominent singers and circus groups also presented various entertainments. The events were attended by the Chairman of the National Committee, Hailemariam Desalegn, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister as well as senior government officials, dignitaries and thousands of residents of Addis.

On the occasion, the symbolic trophy awarded to the Ethiopian people was also paraded round the stadium, as part of its tour of all the regional capitals to underline the overwhelming public participation in purchasing bonds to finance the project. Half a dozen songs on the project, involving more than 70 artists were inaugurated at the event and the Cinema Producers Association pledged to contribute all the revenues collected from cinemas in Addis on that day to project. Citizens from various areas of the country also took the opportunity to pledge to purchase the government bonds to finance the project.

In a speech delivered on the occasion, the Deputy Prime Minister noted that as the country marked “the first anniversary of the launch of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance the Dam the astonishing participation of the Ethiopian People living at home and abroad in purchasing government bond to finance project has proven the correctness of the government decision to build the project solely based on local finance sources”. He  added that the National Committee had raised over seven billion birr  in the past year. This, he emphasized, was due to the determination of the public to build the dam by Ethiopia’s own financial efforts and this had been demonstrated by the enthusiastic participation in public bond sales and other contributions. Referring to the status of the project the Chairman said the project performance over the year had been very satisfactory, and as a result 7% of the project had been completed. The Deputy Prime Minister called on the public to continue with the support it had shown over the year until the project was finally completed.  

At the project site, senior officials were briefed by the project manager on the overall performance and status of the project.  During the year, civil works related to the excavation of two billion cubic meters of soil as well as the mobilization of the necessary equipment for the project had been accomplished. A road to the project site had been built and project offices and a residence camp for workers at the site were also completed. A briefing pointed out that the project will contribute significantly to the transfer of knowledge as the electromechanical works are being carried out by the Ethiopia Metal Fabrication Corporation. The project currently employs some three thousand workers, of whom a hundred or so are expatriate staff. 

When launched the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was planned as one of the biggest dams in Africa with initial design capacity of 5200MW at an estimated cost of 80 billion birr. However, the design has now been revised to increase capacity to 6000MW and the project is now expected to be completed within 5 years at a smaller cost than the original estimate. On completion, the project will help make Ethiopia the power hub of East Africa and provide a further boost to regional integration and development efforts in the Horn of Africa.

Source: A Week in the Horn – April 06, 2012 issue


Check the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam archive for related posts.

Daniel Berhane

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