Over the next 48 hours, Sudanese, Egyptian and Ethiopian irrigation ministers will discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at trilateral talks in Khartoum.
The $4 billion dam being built along the Nile promises to double Ethiopia’s electricity output. This would turn Africa’s second most populous country—where less than half of citizens have access to electricity—into Africa’s largest power exporter.
However, Cairo fears the dam will cause salination and desertification of Egyptian farmland and reduce its water supply, 90% of which comes from the Nile.
While Sudan pushed for an agreement at a meeting on December 2, Egypt’s demands—which included a request to be guaranteed 40 billion cubic metres of water annually—prevented a deal. In particular, Addis Ababa criticised the demand for the dam to link to the High Aswan Dam, which Cairo alone controls, as unreasonable.
Given Egypt’s resistance, expect a request for third-party mediation to be invoked moving forward. Following on from Egypt’s approval of US mediation at talks in November, expect Egypt to argue for its strategic partner to take the lead.
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Saira is an analyst in the Current Developments team, where she focuses her research on the Middle East and North Africa region.