Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has started up the first turbine of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) – the largest hydropower project in Africa.

The 5150MW project is being built on the Blue Nile in the western region of Benishangul-Gumuz in Ethiopia and includes the design and construction of an RCC dam, a saddle dam and two power stations installed downstream at the foot of the dam on opposite shores. The main RCC dam will be 1800m long and 170m high. It will create a reservoir covering 1,875km2 and contain 74 billion m3 of water. The rockfill saddle dam will have a volume of 15.3 million m3 and crest length of 5000km.

Commissioned by Ethiopian Electric Power, and being built by WeBuild, the project is valued at €3.48 billion and is 84% complete. Once completed, it will become an energy hub for the region, which is in great need of energy. It has however been mired by some controversy, with a number of tripartite meetings held between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan regarding the dam – with Egypt and Sudan concerned about potential impacts on water supply in their countries.