With thousands of people working seven days per week, Ethiopia – in the words of Project manager Semegnew Bekele ― “is doing this” ― the GERD.

By Anelise Borges  (TRT World) |

“It is not a question anymore – it’s a reality. We are doing this.” Project manager Semegnew Bekele no longer wants to answer the question on whether Ethiopia’s most ambitious project will be completed.

He has devoted the last five years to the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. He calls it the project of his life.

During our visit, Semegnew Bekele told us we were there “to appreciate, not to question,” “look at what we’re doing with concrete… it’s self-explanatory”.

What Semegnew Bekele, and his 12,000 workers, are “doing with concrete” is going to potentially become Africa’s largest hydropower plant – and produce 6,000 MW of electricity to power Ethiopia’s economic growth.

Power to the people

The Ethiopian government is investing in infrastructure and technology that could see this nation become Africa’s next powerhouse.

The pace of poverty reduction has been impressive: health, education, and living standards have improved, with undernourishment down from 75 percent to 35 percent since the 1990s and infant and child mortality rates falling considerably since 2000.

But a number of challenges remain: in Africa’s second most populous country, 77 percent of the population don’t have access to electricity and other basic services, 37 million Ethiopians remain either poor or vulnerable to becoming impoverished, and the very poorest are becoming even poorer.

The government is trying to diversify the economy and has been investing heavily in industrializing Ethiopia.

And for that, it needs power.

The dam will help with it. As will the even more ambitious plan to become carbon-neutral by 2025.

Water politics: the challenge of sharing the Nile

The project manager tells us there have been no challenges: “we know the science, we know the ingredients, and we have practice”.

But even though there were no technical incidents, diplomatically, the GERD has sparked an acrimonious regional dispute, particularly straining relations between Ethiopia and Egypt since the project was announced and construction began in 2011.

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