Ethiopia is ready to meet its domestic electricity demand and consequently facilitate its economic development thanks to the inauguration of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Expected to be the largest hydroelectric facility in Africa, the dam's first turbine began generating electricity. The $4.2 billion (€3.7 billion) dam is expected to ultimately produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than double Ethiopia's current production. Only one of the 13 turbines is currently operational, with a capacity of 375 megawatts.
A second will be online within a few months, project manager Kifle Horo told AFP, adding that the dam is currently expected to be fully completed in 2024.
The 145-meter (475-foot) tall structure straddles the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, accompanied by senior officials, toured the power plant and pressed a series of buttons on an electronic screen, a move that officials said started production.
He said the start of energy production is good news for Africa and the downstream countries that the East African country aspires to work with.
“As Ethiopia marks the birth of a new era, I congratulate all Ethiopians,” Ahmed tweeted.
The first power generation comes as Ethiopia's downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan see the dam as a threat to reducing the volume of water reaching their territories.
Egypt fears that a shorter filling period of the dam's reservoir could decrease the country's water quota and consequently affect agriculture.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees it as an existential threat. Addis Ababa views the project as essential to the electrification and development of Africa's second most populous country, but Cairo and Khartoum fear it could threaten their access to the Nile's vital waters.
Abiy dismissed those concerns.