Facts on GERD

  • GERD is an acronym for Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction on the Abbay River course (Blue Nile), mainly for hydropower generation. GERD will be the largest hydropower plant not only in Ethiopia but also in Africa.
  • 86% of the Nile flows from Ethiopia. The GERD is the first major hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building over the Nile. The Dam is non-consumptive and its objective is to ease the adverse water scarcity in the country.

The construction of the GERD was inaugurated in April 2011 by late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The project was made public first as Millennium Dam and finally Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and sometimes shortly referred as Renaissance Dam. The Dam was announced on March 12, 2011; a contract was signed with Salini and cornerstone placed on April 2, 2011.

The GERD is financed by the Ethiopian people through a sale of bond and cash contributions.  The government employees, business owners, and citizens of Ethiopian origin in the diaspora participated in the purchase of the bond.

It was planned to have an installed capacity of 6,450MW but recently the installed capacity was revised to 5,150 MW.  The expected average annual energy production is 15,700 GWh.

Over 65 million Ethiopians do not have access to electricity. Rain fed agriculture on which over 80% of the population depends for subsistence is increasingly becoming unreliable. Ethiopia does not possess known significant amount of ground water resources or aquifers nor does it have access to sea water for desalination. Famine is a constant threat. Due to climate change, rain is erratic more frequently. With the country’s total energy production of less than 5000 MW and rising energy demand Ethiopia is suffering from energy insecurity. Therefore, the completion of the GERD will ensure,

  • Increased electricity generation capacity to meet industrial and domestic energy demands.
  • Expanded economic activities in the fishery, recreation and tourism sectors enhancing better employment opportunities.
  • Accelerated structural transformation of Ethiopia’s economy thereby providing opportunity to reduce people living in extreme poverty.
  • Enhanced opportunities for economic integration.
  • Improved electric energy access to Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, and Somalia.
  • Enhanced foreign currency earnings through export of electricity.
  • Reduces dredging and infrastructure maintenance costs
  • Prolongs lifetime of the dams downstream.
  • Improves capacity of the underperforming hydropower schemes.
  • Reduces the amount of water lost due to evaporation.
  • Provides sustainable and regulated flow of water stored in the Ethiopian highlands where evaporation is much less than in the lowlands of downstream.
  • Enhances agricultural production.
  • Reduces seasonal flooding of the plains surrounding the reservoir of the Roseires.
  • Mitigates drought and flood.
  • Reduces dredging and infrastructure maintenance costs.
  • Prolongs lifetime of the dams.
  • Improves capacity of the underperforming hydropower schemes.
  • Enhances conservation of water by reducing water loss at High Aswan Dam.
  • Lowers the Nile water lost at the HAD for evaporation.
  • Provides sustainable and regulated flow of water stored in the Ethiopian highlands where evaporation is much less than in the lowlands of downstream.
  • Enhances agricultural production.
  • Mitigates drought and flood.
  • Promotes the possibility for maximizing mutual benefits whereby countries could complement each other in order to make the most efficient use of the Nile water resources.
  • Since the 1990s Ethiopia has been spearheading the regional effort, in collaboration with all riparian countries of the River Nile, with financial and technical support from the international community to put in place a new basin-wide, water governance arrangement that would enable rules-based, equitable, sustainable, cooperative management and development of the Nile water resources that would benefit all while promoting peace and security in the region. This was pursued through the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and also supporting the negotiations for a new Nile-Basin wide legal regime, namely the Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework (CFA). Ethiopia tirelessly strove toward the establishment of fairer, more equitable, all-inclusive and multilateral regime in Nile Basin.


In April 2011, Ethiopia embarked on the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at a place called Guba in North Western Ethiopia along the Blue Nile. When completed in the next few years, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (hereafter GERD) will be the largest dam in Africa: 1,800 m long, 155 m high and with a total volume of 74 billion m³. The GERD has an installed capacity of 5250 MW and an annual generation capacity of 15, 000 GWh/year.

The purpose of the GERD is mainly producing electricity for Ethiopia’s 100+ million people, of which around 70% have no access to electricity. As such, the dam will help millions of Ethiopians to ‘have a supper with the light on’, in the words of H.E. President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia.

The transformative implications of the GERD are not confined to the development needs and aspirations of Ethiopia, but also to the wider region especially in terms of enhancing regional integration in North Eastern Africa. For one, the dam will be able to generate electricity amounting to 5250 MW of power, of which the significant portion will be exported to neighbouring countries. This will enable neighbouring countries to buy electricity from Ethiopia at a very cheap rate. This is of great significance in connecting the region and in helping facilitate regional interconnectedness and integration in the Greater Horn of Africa region.

In addition to generating electricity, the GERD will also help reduce high seasonal variability and ensure regulated flow of water throughout the year. The GERD will also serve as an additional water bank with less evaporation rate, provide new water by avoiding overbank spillage, reduce sediment load and increase the life of downstream reservoirs and water infrastructures, and offers protection against floods and has less evaporation of water. Therefore, the dam is truly transformative in every sense of the term.

In this regard, Ethiopia’s inalienable right to utilize its natural resources, including transboundary water resources, has always been underpinned by respect to international legal regimes that govern these issues, namely the principle of ‘equitable  and reasonable utilization’ and ‘causing of no significant harm’.

It is with this imperative that Ethiopia has been an active actor in negotiating the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) with the aim of establishing a Nile River Basin Commission to ensure an equitable and reasonable utilization of the waters of the Nile and its cooperative management by all riparian states. So far, to date, four Nile riparian countries have ratified the CFA, and other members are also expected to ratify it.

Moreover, right after the start of the construction of the GERD, Ethiopia proposed to Egypt and the Sudan, the two downstream countries of the Nile River, the establishment of an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) in 2012 to transparently share information and examine the impact of the GERD on downstream countries. The International Panel of Experts (IPoE) has been composed of two experts from each of the countries, i.e. Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, and international experts from Germany, South Africa, France and Britain.

This unprecedented and proactive initiative of Ethiopia to establish Trilateral Mechanism has been aimed at building mutual trust and confidence among the lower riparian states. This has in turn helped keep the dialogue alive among the technical experts of Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan.

The signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) by the leaders of the three countries in March 23, 2015 is one of the results of this continued dialogue among the three countries. The DOP has helped frame the GERD consultations on internationally recognized principles of “equitable and reasonable utilization” and “causing of no significant harm”.

Moreover, in an attempt to explore win-win mechanisms and options for filling and operation of the GERD, the three countries established the National Independent Scientific Research Group (NISRG) on the 15th of May 2018. The NISRG is composed of five scientists from each of the three countries i.e Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

After its establishment in May 2018, the NISRG carried out modeling and scenario-based analysis of filling options for the GERD. The Group evaluated the various options by analyzing impacts on all three countries. The NISRG conducted four meetings in which the Group deliberated on the filling options proposed by Ethiopia and came up with a compromise filling options that by and large accommodated the concerns of Egypt and Sudan. The outcome of the September 25, 2018 meeting of the NISRG was the culmination of the four meetings of the NISRG at which the Group submitted its findings to the ministers of water affairs of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. However, the technical track was halted for sometimes due to the withdrawal of Egypt from the process.

The meeting between H.E. PM Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and President el-Sisi of Egypt on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit at Sochi on the 24th of October 2019 helped to resume the afore-mentioned technical track meetings. The trilateral meetings of the foreign and water ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 2019 was also the continuation of the bilateral meetings that had happened in Sochi, Russia. The D.C. discussions, which saw the participation of the US Secretary of Treasury H.E. Steven T. Mnuchin and World Bank President David R. Malpass, involved discussions on the next procedures for resuming the trilateral technical negotiations among the three countries so as to finalize these negotiations until January 25, 2019. These meetings have been helpful in communicating to our partners the intentions of Ethiopia and the benefits of the GERD not only to Ethiopia but also to downstream countries.

After DC discussions, the ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan reaffirmed their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and to establish a clear process for fulfilling that commitment in accordance with the 2015 Declaration of Principles which was signed by the three countries.

The Foreign Ministers also agreed to restart the technical track negotiations. As mentioned earlier, the technical track which consists of 15 scientists from the three countries established in May 15, 2018 had agreed to hold nine meetings guided by water ministers of the three countries, and to submit their recommendations on the filling and operation of the GERD. The technical track meetings were halted after the fifth meeting due to the Egyptian withdrawal from the discussions. Hence, what the Foreign Ministers agreed in DC was to resume the technical track meetings and complete the work in four sessions. The three countries’ Water Ministers will hold four meetings to guide the technical level meetings and to consider the technical team outcomes.

The ministers also agreed to work toward completion of an agreement by January 15, 2020, and would attend two meetings in Washington, D.C. on December 9, 2019 and January 13, 2020, to assess and support progress.

Based on the agreement reached in D.C., the stalled trilateral technical negotiations resumed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the 25th and 26th of November 2019. Following Addis, the latest technical negotiations have happened in Cairo on the 2nd and 3rd of December 2019. Moreover, the three countries also met in Washington DC again on the 9th of December 2019 to review the progress made during the last two technical meetings in Addis and Cairo respectively. As such, the three countries appreciated the observer role of the US and the WB and set the direction for the next technical meetings in Khartoum and Addis Ababa.

Overall, significant progresses have been achieved during these technical negotiations. It is also Ethiopia’s firm belief that a win-win agreement could be reached before January 15th 2020.

The participation of the WB and the US as mere observers of these technical negotiations has already had and will continue to have a positive role in encouraging mutual trust and assurance, thereby incentivizing all actors to commit to the negotiations in good faith and to remain true to their words. If there is anything that the latest negotiations in Addis have proven, it is the fact that it is possible to devise a common technical solution to technical matters if and when countries negotiate in good faith and commitment.



Agreement on Declaration of Principles between

The Arab Republic of Egypt, The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia And The Republic of the Sudan

on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP)

Mindful of the rising demand of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Sudan on their transboundary water resource, and cognizant of the significance of the River Nile as the source of livelihood and the significant resource to the development of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, the three countries have committed to the following principles on the GERD:

  • To cooperate based on common understanding, mutual benefit, good faith, win-win and principles of international law.
  • To cooperate in understanding upstream and downstream water needs in its various aspects.
  • The Purpose of GERD is for power generation, to contribute to economic development, promotion of transboundary cooperation and regional integration through generation of sustainable and reliable clean energy supply.
  • The Three Countries shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm in utilizing the Blue/Main Nile.
  • Where significant harm nevertheless is caused to one of the countries, the state whose use causes such harm shall, in the absence of agreement to such use, take all appropriate measures in consultations with the affected state to eliminate or mitigate such harm and, where appropriate, to discuss the question of compensation.
  • The Three Countries shall utilize their shared water resources in their respective territories in an equitable and reasonable manner.
  • In ensuring their equitable and reasonable utilization, the Three Countries will take into account all the relevant guiding factors listed below, but not limited to the following outlined:
  1. Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural character;
  2. The social and economic needs of the Basin States concerned;
  3. The population dependent on the water resources in each Basin State;
  4. The effects of the use or uses of the water resources in one Basin State on other Basin States;
  5. Existing and potential uses of the water resources;
  6. Conservation, protection, development and economy of use of the water resources and the costs of measures taken to that effect;
  7. The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use;
  8. The contribution of each Basin State to the waters of the Nile River system;
  9. The extent and proportion of the drainage area in the territory of each Basin State.
  • To implement the recommendations of the International Panel of Experts (IPOE), respect the final outcomes of the Technical National Committee (TNC) Final Report on the joint studies recommended in the IPOE Final Report throughout the different phases of the project.
  • The Three Countries, in the spirit of cooperation, will utilize the final outcomes of the joint studies, to be conducted as per the recommendations of the IPoE Report and agreed upon by the TNC, to:-
  1. Agree on guidelines and rules on the first filling of GERD which shall cover all different scenarios, in parallel with the construction of GERD.
  2. Agree on guidelines and rules for the annual operation of GERD, which the owner of the dam may adjust from time to time.
  3. Inform the downstream countries of any unforeseen or urgent circumstances requiring adjustments in the operation of GERD.
  • To sustain cooperation and coordination on the annual operation of GERD with downstream reservoirs, the three countries, through the line ministries responsible for water, shall set up an appropriate coordination mechanism among them.
  • The time line for conducting the above mentioned process shall be 15 months from the inception of the two studies recommended by the IPoE.
  • Priority will be given to downstream countries to purchase power generated from GERD.
  • Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan shall provide data and information needed for the conduct of the TNC joint studies in good faith and in a timely manner.
  • The Three Countries appreciate the efforts undertaken thus far by Ethiopia in implementing the IPoE recommendations pertinent to the GERD safety.
  • Ethiopia shall in good faith continue the full implementation of the Dam safety recommendations as per the IPoE report.

The Three Countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.

The Three Countries will settle disputes, arising out of the interpretation or implementation of this agreement, amicably through consultation or negotiation in accordance with the principle of good faith. If the Parties are unable to resolve the dispute thorough consultation or negotiation, they may jointly request for conciliation, mediation or refer the matter for the consideration of the Heads of State/Heads of Government.

For the Arab Republic of Egypt –  Abdel Fattah El Sisi – President of the Republic

For the Federal Democratic Republic Ethiopia – Hailemariam Desalegn – Prime Minster of the  Republic

For the Republic of Sudan  – Omer Hassan Elbashir- President of the Republic