Regional disagreements come first, as Ethiopia continues to inch towards completion of the dam – on the Blue Nile River – that it began filling in July 2020. GERD has been a primary source of contention with neighbouring Sudan and Egypt for more than a decade, with no lasting solution in hand.
But, because of strong continental support in its favour, Ethiopia has preferred to keep negotiations at the AU level.
Egypt, on the other hand, called for “involving an international party in the Renaissance Dam negotiations” in 2019.
Egypt internationalises its problems
American and Egyptian relations may have been strained following Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s initial rise to power, but that soon changed during the Trump era, with the former US President having famously referred to Sisi as his “favourite dictator”.
Indeed, Egypt has employed considerable PR efforts in Washington since 2017, when it hired lobbying firms Weber Shandwick and Cassidy & Associates for a total of $1.8m annually, to rehabilitate its image. That’s on top of a previous $2m per year contract, with the Glover Park Group, that lasted from 2013 to 2019.
“It is in Egypt’s interest to internationalise the issue. It has better coercing chances within the EU or through the US,” Alex ISSA, a research Associate in International relations at Sciences Po, tells The Africa Report. Cairo thus remains an important ally to the EU, in its efforts to counter Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean, and Islamic terrorism in the region.
Following the first filling of the GERD reservoir in July last year, the US suspended between $100m and $130m in foreign assistance to Ethiopia in August 2020. It was under these circumstances that the Ethiopian embassy in the US signed a three-month contract for $130,000 with lobbying firm Barnes & Thornburg in September 2020.
Following Biden’s election in November 2020, the US State Department restored its foreign aid in February 2021.
There's more to this story
Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.
Already a a subscriber Sign In