Ethiopia – Grand Renaissance Dam

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As the government pushes forward with huge dam project, concerns resurface about the downstream impact.

The government of Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which once completed will be the largest hydropower facility in Africa.

The huge project will contribute around 6000 MegaWatts (MW) of power, nearly triple the country’s current electricity generation capacity, and will also present an important source of economic revenue for the government.

The project is seen by Ethiopia as a strong symbol of unity, with the Ethiopian Herald claiming that it fills Ethiopians with hope, not just a development project but a symbol demonstrating the wish to overcome poverty.

Statistics from 2016 show that around 30% of Ethiopia’s population have access to electricity with more than 90% of households still relying on traditional fuels for cooking, leading to respiratory infections, which are the main cause of death in the country.

The Ethiopian government rationalises the project in these terms and the economic benefits are clear. Critical commentators, however, have pointed out that in areas in which 70% of the population rely on subsistence agriculture, standard of living needs to improve before Ethiopians will consume additional electricity. Unless the electricity is subsidised by the government.

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Grand Renaissance Dam – All Africa

The government also sees crucial revenue opportunities, particularly through electricity exports. Power purchase agreements have already been signed with Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania.

But there are concerns about how this dam will affect downstream states, in particular Sudan and Egypt. Initially, Sudan was opposed to the construction of the dam, but has since agreed to purchase electricity upon its completion, and the respective countries have agreed to collaborate on a ‘free economic zone’.

In May 2017, the Middle East Monitor concluded that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had just finished their 14th round of unsuccessful discussions about how to manage the Nile River.

The Ethiopian government expects it will take y five or six years to fill the GERD reservoir. In contrast, Diaa Al-Din Al-Qousi from Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said 12 to 18 years is needed to guarantee water security for Egypt.

The Geological Society of America said that the Nile’s fresh water flow to Egypt may be cut by as much as 25%, with the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam in Egypt cut by a third. Egypt is already one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, reported the Institute of Security Studies.

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Nile Basin – Global Water Forum

Ethiopia insists that the project has been conducted with adequate transparency but since it was announced in 2011 Cairo has periodically demanded that construction cease, claiming it is protected by a 1959 treaty, that divides the river between Sudan and Egypt, but does not include Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, however, claims that it never signed the treaty and highlights that Egypt has not signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile Basin States.

Analysts at the US-based consulting group Stratfor have said that Egypt’s reaction will be determined by its political leadership, but that a large-scale reduction in water from the Nile would be intolerable to any Egyptian government’, reported the Institute of Security Studies.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

WATER: Ethiopia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21732B–21733C

WATER PROJECTS: Ethiopia – Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21624B–21625C

ETHIOPIA: Regional Powerhouse
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21411A–21412C

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Nigeria – Privatisation Concerns

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As the government pushes forward with wide-ranging privatisation measures, rights groups remain apprehensive. 

Wide ranging privatisation measures are taking place in Nigeria, particularly within the water and power sectors, in a bid to ease pressure on already scarce resources and funds. However, according to one commentator, from the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) , the privatisation of the power sector was leading to the casualisation of the workforce, job insecurity, unemployment, and an increased cost of living.

“To date, companies in the power sector have adopted all manners of anti-labour practices, including denial of salaries and sacking without fair hearing,” the source said, reported the Daily Trust.

Earlier, on March 22nd, the Daily Trust also reported that three years after the privatisation of the sector was begun, a number of conflicts over employee settlements have yet to be resolved. Meetings were held in 2013 between the government and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE). While around 90% of workers stated they did received payments, many, including most from the Enugu Distribution Company, said they had yet to see anything.

In Lagos, rights groups, including Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), have expressed concerns over the drive towards public private partnerships (PPPs) for water concessions in the state. The group had launched a campaign in 2014, entitled ‘Our Water, Our Right‘.

“As we have said time and again, the failure of the Lagos State government to open up on the controversial water PPP gives room for us to suspect that something is in the offing and the people are deliberately being kept in the dark,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director at ERA/FoEN.

“Worse is the fact that the Lagos State government is toying with a failed model of PPP that the World Bank private arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC)  advised it to embark upon even with documented failures in Manila and Nagpur, in the Philippines and India respectively,” said Oluwafemi cited by the Premium Times.

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Source – Nigeria Electricity

A United States (US) lawmaker, Gwen Moore – a representative for Wisconsin -, and also a member of the Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee, penned a letter to the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, which stated that the Bank and its finance arm the IFC had inadequately considered the conflicts of interest it had created upon taking stakes in water corporations.

“I am increasingly uneasy with water resource privatisation in developing countries and do not believe that the current ring-fencing policies separating the investment and advising functions of the IFC are adequate‎.”

“I would respectfully urge the World Bank and IFC to cease promoting and funding privatisation of water resources, including so-called PPPs in the water sector, until there has been a robust outside evaluation of the IFC’s conflicts policy and practices”; Moore said that the trends of water privatisation indicated an “improper mingling” of the World Bank and IFC advisory and investment functions.

In March many women marched in Lagos against the proposed plans to privatise the Lagos public water works, reported the Premium Times.

In the airline sector, the former Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Managing Director Richard Aisuebeogun has urged the federal government to privatise the 22 federal airports under the auspices of the agency. He claimed that privatisation would enhance income generation and boost efficiency.

Aisuebeogun explained that the airports should be encouraged to look to aeronautical revenues to make them “more business minded, rather just being operations…we need to encourage private investments to cone into the airports and develop it in terms of non-aeronautical activities, so that the unviable airports will become Strategic Business Units (SBUs).”

In recent years there has been great demand for the privatisation of air facilities, due to scarce resources and demand in other sectors, particularly education, health, road and rail infrastructure, reported This Day.

According to campaigns and advocacy group Global Justice Now, there are serious concerns not only with the increasing informalisation, casualisation and increasing precariousness of the workforce engendered under privatisation, but also the huge amounts of money that are being directed at the move, which some have said is doomed to failure. According to the report the United Kingdom (UK) has contributed £50m towards the privatisation of Nigeria’s energy sector.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

NIGERIA: Rising Hopes, Falling Revenues
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20811A–20812B

POWER: General
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.2, Pp.20727A–20729C

Nigeria’s Forgotten Crisis
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20634A–20634B

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Namibia – Water Crisis Escalates

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Livelihoods at risk as ongoing drought puts excessive strain on the water supply system across the country.

Water supplies in Namibia have reached a critical level forcing the authorities in Windhoek Municipality to declare a water crisis on December 3rd. Poor rainfall and high temperatures have put excessive strain on the bulk water supply system and analysts have said the agricultural sector is likely to be hit hardest.

National water company NamWater stated in 2014 that it would need Namibian Dollar (N)$8 billion to supply the current 33 million cubic metres needed per annum. The company stated that it intended to extract 3.5m cubic metres from the Von Bach and Swakopport dams, but government-owned daily New Era reported that both were already overexploited and another, Omatako, which supplies water to the capital, currently has no water.

According to reports the water crisis has been exacerbated by rising populations in Windhoek; the population increased from 250,262 in 2001 to 342,141 in 2011, without an increase in the capacity of water infrastructure.

City municipality spokesperson Lydia Amutenya said in a statement on December 3rd that there was only a combined 15 percent of water left in Swakoppoort and Von Bach dams. The authorities recently set aside N$458m for the fast-track of the Neckartal Dam.

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According to a report by the Namibian Economist the government is the largest consumer of water in Windhoek and there is a significant amount of wastage due to leaks and broken pipes.

The report identified certain industries such as Namib Poultry Industries which requires around 240,000 cubic metres of fresh water per year. The Meatco feedlot in Okapuka, in Windhoek municipality, holds 9000 cattle and requires around 450 cubic metres of water per day.

The water shortage has also been affecting miners at small-scale mines in Xoboxobos, 80km from the village of Uis in Erongo region. The miners face a constant water shortage due to the remote location, having to pay around N$10,000 for water; currently the constituency office in Uis is unable to supply water for at least two months, reported New Era.

Immediate concerns resulting from the water crisis are for livelihoods; food supply, health, economic productivity and employment are all likely to be affected. The Namibian also added that there are concerns that the shortages could lead to an increase in domestic violence.

Often, within rural communities, it is the women who collect water from boreholes or water tanks, and during crisis periods they may have to travel lengthy distances to secure water, this is known to cause tension within households. In southeastern Uganda a water scarcity led to a noticed increase in domestic violence.

BBC News Online reported that over the past two years, the weak or absent rains have left at least 500,000 people needing emergency food aid. The government has launched a well-drilled programme for food deliveries to most affect areas; Namibia’s response has been admired in South Africa.

However, already one of the driest countries in the world, Namibia is being put under increasing strain and questions have arisen of how the country will cope with climate change. A report published by the government in 2011 stated that over the previous 40 years there had been a marked increase in days over 35C.

Maria Johansson from an NGO the Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions (CES) said, “the country is already importing 70% of its foodstuffs. India has already said it won’t export any pearl millet to Namibia. Currently, Namibia is buying from Zambia but what if Zambia doesn’t produce? This is a global problem.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Growth Slows, Food Insecurity Rises
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20979A–20980C
NAMIBIA: State of Emergency
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.5, Pp.19982A–19982B
Namibia: Selected Economic Indicators baseline scenario, 2014–2018
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20998B–20998C

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Nile Basin – Water Politics

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Shifting regional politics as the approval of Ethiopian dam and co-operative agreement may signal new directions in dispute over Nile-basin water resources

On March 23rd, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, met in Khartoum and signed an agreement on the ‘Declaration of the Principles’ of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Ethiopia started diverting water from the Blue Nile in 2013 for the construction of the 6000MW dam in the Benishangul region near the Sudanese border. It will be Africa’s largest when completed in 2017, at 1,780 metres long and 145 metres high, costing around US$4.8 billion, reported Al Jazeera.

Egypt, largely reliant on the Nile for water and agriculture, had opposed the proposed dam claiming that it would reduce its already strained water supply and the energy generating capacity of its Aswan dam possibly by 30-40%, reported Al-Monitor.

Under current colonial-era treaties Egypt and Sudan receive the majority of water from the Nile; the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement, was a revision of an earlier English-Egyptian agreement, governing infrastructure projects and water allowances. However while Sudan has supported the GERD, Egypt has often boycotted negotiations. In the past the dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt has degenerated into threats of war.

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AFP reported that on March 24th, the day following the meeting in Khartoum, Al-Sisi met with Dessalegn in Addis-Ababa, he explained that “the agreement…represents a positive step on the right path. We’re not going to waste any more time”. This position marks a considerable change from his predecessor Mohamed Morsi, who opposed the “theft of the Nile”.

Rwandan Internal Security Minister Sheikh Musa Fazil Harerimana hailed the agreement as “unprecedented historical action… a step towards increased cooperation as well as regional peace and stability”, report the New Times.

In 1999 the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was founded as a ‘framework for co-operation’ and a ‘regional inter-governmental partnership’ led by Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan Tanzania and Uganda.

However water demands and populations continue to grow; the report by ISS estimates that the Nile basin population will double by 2050. Already existing pressures on the water supply include consumption needs, irrigation, energy demands from hydro-power, and environmental and climatic factors.

In 2010 the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) was introduced to replace the NBI by countries who wanted more access to water and did not want to seek Egypt’s permission before implementing projects on the Nile. It has been signed by Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, while Egypt and Sudan blocked the operationalisation of the agreement, explains the ISS report.

Often the upstream countries have favoured co-operative deals, while downstream countries have stuck to colonial decrees that provided Egypt and Sudan exclusive rights to the water; Egypt opposed the CFA claiming that it would deprive them of their veto power over development projects on the Nile, on which they are much more dependant than ‘upstream’ countries.

Sudan ended a two year boycott of the NBI in 2014 but Egypt continued its stance. Additional confusion as to whether a newly independent South Sudan had any ‘official rights’ to the Nile water led to intense external pressure to ratify the CFA, a move opposed by Egypt. South Sudan however, did not sign the agreement and instead signed a military agreement with Egypt in March 2014, report Le Monde diplomatique.

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In recent years the financing arrangements have also changed; funding for infrastructure projects used to come from the Nile Basin Trust Fund (NBTF) managed by the World Bank. Now other investors, largely from China, have allowed governments to push ahead with smaller projects without considering resulting consequences for other countries.

Similarly, recent regional events have made the politic situation increasingly unpredictable; domestic instability in many of the Nile basin countries is rising and tensions between states continue, disputes may be reignited as water sources are strained by plans to turn the Nile into an “axis for development”.

The historical trans-boundary water relations are changing and Egypt’s support for the GERD may signal a shift in direction. Egypt’s State Information Service explained that “the agreement is considered a road map for action in the future as it lays down the bases for maintaining the Egyptian rights and helps promote confidence-building measures within a political, legal and technical framework”.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Egypt-Ethiopia: Nile Dam Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series, 
Vol.50, Issue.10, Pp.20154B-20155B

Egypt-Ethiopia: Battle for the Nile
Political, Social & Cultural Series, 
Vol.50, Issue.6, Pp. 19729B-19730B

Nile Basin: Egypt and Sudan Cling to Historic Rights
Political, Social & Cultural Series, 
Vol.47, Issue.5, Pp.18389A-18390A

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