Mammoth dams, lean neighbours: assessing the bid to turn Ethiopia into East Africa's powerhouse
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This chapter sets out to discuss the main features of the undergoing Ethiopian electrification programme as well as the key steps towards its implementation. Doing so also allows its potentialities and pitfalls to be assessed. The analysis stems from the review of the policies enacted by the Ethiopian authorities, the reports associated with the projects implemented by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank, as well as of articles from regional newspapers. For a better understanding of the whole proposed electrification scheme, which spans a timeframe running from 2005 to 2023, I differentiate between three phases, each of them predicated upon a characteristic balancing of a triad of components – namely generation, exports and domestic access. In the first section of this chapter I analyse the past and present stages of the scheme (2005–2011 and 2012–2017), highlighting their respective emphasis on generation and domestic access. The second section touches upon the upcoming third phase (2018–2023), underscoring its focus on the exports component. I analyse the probability of exports of Ethiopian electricity occurring to the three major markets of Egypt, Kenya and South Africa, and arguably also to Yemen as a fourth one. I posit that those markets that are more within reach in the medium term than Egypt and South Africa are also substantially smaller and marked by some uncertainties – namely Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (hereafter the DR Congo), Rwanda, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. In the third section I highlight the potential pitfalls of Ethiopia’s electrification scheme – meaning likely environmental and financial obstacles.