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Ethiopia is Burning the Midnight Oil

Ethiopia is Burning the Midnight Oil

Amen Teferi 12-27-16

Whether western think-tanks or activists (like the Survival International, Oakland Institute and Rights Groups) like it or not, all the dams we plan to build on our rivers in the coming five years will, as expected, be materialized as per the schedule we have devised. Some international organizations like the Survival International who vowed and tread to suppress Africa’s development have adamantly been against the construction of the Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam which the PM, Hailemariam Desalegn, had inaugurated on December 17, 2016. Now, Gibe III is a fact of life. However unpalatable it may be for some activists and think-tanks it may be, it must willy-nilly be accepted as a fact of life.

In point of fact, some western scholars and countries do want Africa to remain unchanged to serve them as a museum of backwardness. They have zealously barraged the Gilgel Gibe III project with wild and woolly accusations or nonsensical criticisms.

These Ill-devised tantrums or hypes were orchestrated to designedly misinform promising financers and consequently promote “their own” skewed self/business interests. Those pseudoscientific exercises and gibberish criticisms pertaining to the construction of the Gibe III dam were designedly aimed at instigating animosity between the two sisterly countries, Ethiopia and Kenya. Luckily, these notorious and beaten-up campaigns have finally turned out to be a futile venture and bore no fruit whatsoever. Instead, the pompous crusades have utterly failed to antagonize Ethiopia with its trustworthy neighbor -Kenya.

To our dismay, they have succeeded in concocting stories that had forced some financial organizations to shun from granting loan to the billion dollar mega project inaugurated on December 17, fortnight ago. Financial oligarchs like the African Development Bank (ADB), the European Investment Bank and other international financial institutions might have received the signals sent by these think-tanks and activists and lost interest in providing the necessary fund for the construction of the dam. Apparently, they did not appraise the project and got convinced that the construction of the Gilgel Gibe III dam would disrupt the livelihood local communities or significantly impact the environment. That was not the case at all, for Ethiopia usually unequivocally demonstrates its staunch commitment for environment. It had adopted a green economic policy and as the CNN has recently confirmed, “Ethiopia was among the most daring signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change, committing to cut carbon emissions by 64% by 2030.” Truly that is the reason why, “the Ethiopian government has ploughed billions of dollars into hydropower megaprojects such as Grand Renaissance Dam which will be the largest dam in Africa ---and the freshly-inaugurated Gibe II Dam,” as the CNN had rightly noted this week.

As Ethiopia has unwaveringly committed itself to the cause of environment and has clearly demonstrated the justness of its position in the utilization of trans-boundary water, it would be very difficult to drive a wedge between the two countries, Kenya and Ethiopia and accuse Ethiopia on account of promoting its selfish without considering the rational and best interest of neighboring people of Kenya. However, some groups have tried to project their sinister motives by negatively representing Ethiopia’s motives in harnessing the Omo River. As an immediate reaction to these baseless allegations Ethiopia had invited Kenya to visit the project and thus removes the logjams and outmaneuvered its “arch-enemies.”   

Now, Ethiopia is burning the mid night oil to realize its renaissance. It is really working hard to accomplish the daunting task of removing the ugliest impacts and the adverse effects of extreme poverty. Poverty reduction, for Ethiopia, is a ground zero of all its projects. It is impatient to see the realization of this noble goal and is working well beyond the limits of its poor financial and implementing capacities witnessed by the daring undertakings of the mega projects like Renaissance Dam and Gilgel Gibe III.   

Therefore, we would be blown away on hearing news about the completion of a flagship dam project that has been listed in the black books of market fundamentalists and right groups who barraged and disparaged the Gibe III project and also as the late PM Meles Zenawi once said, “who want us to remain under developed and backward to serve their tourists as museum.”

Disgusted with these criticisms the Ethiopian government has shut the uproars of “the guards of poverty” with an unequivocal and succinct statement: “it would be finished at any cost.”

At any rate, it is as nice as pie and even uplifting, if you like, to hear bits of news about the superlative performance of Ethiopia in the economic sector. The unprecedented economic achievement in the last two decades has put Ethiopia on the map, as various international organizations are praising its progress. Economic reports from major media organization are now telling us that the bags and baggage of the Ethiopian economy replenished with blank checks of opportunities. It is, therefore, attracting giant foreign investors from all corners of the globe.

Following the inauguration of the Gilgel Gibe III dam, we had heard incredible news about the economic boom in Ethiopia. The Economist, on its Dec 21st 2016 issue, has commended the Gibe III dam for having “a capacity to double the country’s electricity output at the flick of a switch.”

In its latest report of Dec 21st, The Economist chose to be very laconic in the opening paragraph that tries to list some prominent accomplishments of the ruling party. The report rendered Ethiopian government as one that “likes to deal in superlatives” and goes on listing the superlatives as, “largest mass-housing program in Sub-Saharan Africa; its first metro; its biggest army and last week the ruling party Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) added another to the list: the tallest dam, i.e. Gibe III”

Ethiopia wishes to be a renewable-energy exporter in region and beyond. The Gibe III alone is expected to generate as much electricity as currently produced by the whole of neighboring Kenya, which has already signed up to buy some power from Gibe III. According to The Economist, “the export earnings will help to plug Ethiopia’s gaping current-account deficit   The export earnings will help to plug Ethiopia’s gaping current-account deficit, power will provide a timely fillip to its nascent manufacturing sector.” It is, therefore, attracting giant foreign investors from all corners of the globe.

On the other hand, the CNN in its latest report has said, “After a decade of rapid growth, Ethiopia’s bubble is not bursting.” I liked that statement. That is really a poetic – a riposte of metaphoric. It is a work of an ingenious writer whose figurative rendition is as new as foam and as old as a rock. It is a fantastic representation of the fanatic economic performance of Ethiopia for over a decade. One more quote from the CNN:

 

Dubbed the 'African Lion’ by economists, Ethiopia is the home of booming industry, new infrastructure, and showpiece summits. It has become a powerful force in the region and beyond. To maintain this golden age, the East African state is pressing ahead with ambitious development plans, and renewable energy is core to the mission.

 

In my view Ethiopia must also be dubbed as “shipwright for humanity and its civilization” for it vowed to pursue green economic policy that would be a safeguard to the mother earth that is being threatened by the outpouring of the sea water caused by the rising of the sea level. The melting sheets of the ice in the Antarctic region would inundate the major coastal cities of the world due to the global warming triggered by the greenhouse gas emission.

In fact, Ethiopia has virtually contributed nothing the global warming. However, it is among the most daring signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change, committing to cut carbon emissions by 64% by 2030.  The government has pumped billions of dollars into hydropower megaprojects such as the Grand Renaissance Hydroelectric Dam which will be the largest dam in Africa. The freshly-inaugurated Gibe III Dam is one among the billions dollars project the country has undertaken.

The CNN has also regaled its reader with yet another lavish praise on Ethiopia with an admiring comment like Ethiopia’s “next target is to become the wind power capital of Africa.” Ethiopia has enormous potential for hydropower and geothermal energy generation. Several studies have so far been carried out to identify Ethiopia's energy potential and to develop short, medium and long-term investment plans for the power sector. The country's hydropower potential is estimated at 45,000 MW and the potential for generating electricity from geothermal is about 5,000 MW. The country is also endowed with enormous potentials of other renewable energy sources like solar and wind, particularly in rural areas. Despite such huge resources, the country has so far managed to utilize merely 2,000 MW of its power generating potential and only about 33 percent of the population has access to electricity, but it has planned to boost the electricity coverage of the country to 75 percent in the coming few years. Since the formulation of the last comprehensive power system expansion master plan, there is fundamental and unprecedented structural change that have taken place and Ethiopia’s economy is finding its driving force in the power sector.


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