(Daniel Berhane)

The Ethiopian government disclosed that it has collected about 4.4 Billion Birr from citizens for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam project, which is now 19.6% complete.

The total cost of the dam project was said to be 78 billion birr (3.35 bln Euros or 4.8 bln USD) on April 2, 2011, when it was launched.

However, the government recently indicated that the cost estimate has been lowered by 5.5 billion Birr “after several negotiations with the contractor”, which seems to refer to the main contractor Salini Costruttori.

On the other-hand  the project design was upgraded to increase the dam’s power generating capacity by 750 MW. The original design indicated that the dam will have two powerhouses on the right bank and one on the left bank with ten and five Francis Turbine Units, respectively. Each of the 15 turbines were to be configured to generate 350 MW, the total installed capacity of the dam.was expected to be (15x350MW) 5250MW. However, the design was upgraded last year.

The revised design indicates that the turbines would be configured to generate to 375 MW and the dam will accommodates 16 turbines – ten on the left bank, 6 on the right bank. Thereby, increasing the the total installed capacity of the dam to (16 turbines X 375 MW) 6000 MW.

The government hopes to raise some 20% (around 14.5 bln birr) of the total project cost, from Ethiopians at home and abroad, mainly through the sell of treasury bonds issued for this purpose.

Data released this month indicate that 9.2 bln has been pledged so far. Of which, 4.4 bln has been paid.

The top performers are salaried employees – from government and private sectors – who contributed by pledging a month’s salary to be paid in 12 months period. The performance of the fund raising from this group is said to be “more than 90%” and a total of 1.8 bln birr has been collected.

Media reports indicate that employees in several institutions are pledging to make similar contribution for a second year. If that is followed by salaried employees throughout the country and also joined by those who didn’t take part in the first round, it appears another 1.8 – 2.4 bln birr may be raised.

On the other-hand, the business community is dragging its foot to honor the amount it had pledged.

Business enterprises reportedly pledged to contribute 4.3 bln birr. However, only about 1.8 bln has been paid up so far.

The biggest pledge made by a single person is 1.5 bln birr by the Ethiopian-born multi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi. Of which, he paid only 500 million birr so far. However, this doesn’t include the pledges and payments made by dozens of business enterprises he established in Ethiopia.

The performance of the business sector varies from enterprise to enterprise and among different sectors.

Media reports indicate that Yesu PLC, the Turkish Aica Addis Textile, BGI Ethiopia and Mesobo cement have paid 30, 25, 20 and 15 million birrs, respectively.

Similarly, enterprises such as; NitTo Finish, KKK, Oasis Abyssinia, Mesfin Industrial, Abyssinia integrated steel, Yesu PLC, Habesha steel, HH steel, Derba flower, Ethio-horticulture, Garika flower and Manaskiw are praised for honoring their pledges.

There is no comprehensive listing of the funds raised from the Ethiopian diaspora. However, the state media reported grants and bond purchases made at various times in the past two years.

Among those:

* In UAE: Dawit Gebreigzabiherm, owner Medical Farma PLC and Sky bird Technology, made $500 thousand
* In UAE: Ethiopian community – 2.5 million dollars
* In Canada: Ethiopian community – about 80,000 USD
* In Kenya: Ethiopian community – over 4. 3 million birr
* In Switzerland: Ethiopian community – over 1.2 million birr
* In Washington DC: Ethiopian community – over $1.5 million
* By June 2012, Amb. Girma Biru reportedly said that “over $3.3 mln bond purchase and over $123,000 grant has been made” in the United States.
* In Jeddah: Ethiopian community –  half a million dollars
* In UK: Ethiopian community – about 3 million birr
* In Netherlands: Ethiopian community – over 1.1 million birr
* In Berlin: Ethiopian community – about 1.8 million Birr
* In Athens: Ethiopian community – about 20, 980.00 Euros

The list above is not complete and fund raising events are still being held in various cities around the globe.

Fundraising events, however, were at times disturbed by some Eritrean-backed opposition elements and other individuals who wish to substantiate their political asylum applications by participating in such disturbances.

It is ironic that some of these short-sighted oppositions claim that Ethiopia can put the project on hold until their vague political demands are made.

Political analysts indicate that Egypt is engaged in a serious of mega water projects so as to back her claim of “historic rights of exclusive use” of the Nile waters by demonstrating actual use – which practically leaves no extra water for Ethiopia to use in less than a decade time.

It is to be recalled that Eritrea re-affirmed her support for Egypt on Nile issue earlier this month.

In line with its decision that this project shall be self-funded, the government intends to employ various fundraising methods, including lottery tickets.

It is to be recalled that the National Bank of Ethiopia issued a directive requiring all banks to spend 27% of their cash deposit on purchase of treasury bonds. Addis Ababa based think-thank, Access Capital, estimated last year than more than 800 mln birr per month is being collected this way. Though this cash is assumed to be used for financing the dam project, it certainly is not part of the public fund-raising – which includes voluntary purchase of treasury bonds.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam is scheduled to start delivering electricity in September 2014, when 2 turbine units (700 MW) become operational. However, it’s completion is scheduled for September 2017, according to the timetable released during the project launch.


Please read my July 2001 article ““. Two weeks after my article, the government announced grants by salaried employees will be converted into bonds.

Daniel Berhane

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