11 April 2012 – Ethiopian news source NewsDire reports that Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, told the newly appointed Ethiopian ambassador to Sudan, Abadi Zemo, that his country supports the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project.

According to a statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bashir made the announcement while receiving the new Ethiopian envoy to Sudan in Khartoum, where the two sides also held talks on a number of bilateral issues.

Bashir said his government understands the mutual benefits the project could offer Ethiopia and Sudan and said he will extend the necessary support to ensure the successful completion of the massive hydropower project.

In 2011 Ethiopia began the construction of the US$4.8 billion project on the Blue Nile near the Sudanese border. This led to outcry from the downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt, which had control over most of the water resources using a treaty signed during colonial era.

Egypt and Sudan previously argued that the construction of the dam would negatively affect their water shares and insisted the project should be blocked, calling on international donors against funding it. Ethiopia argued that the project would not have a detrimental effect on Sudan or Egypt, and that it would continue with it.

Following the downfall of the Hosni Mubarak-led Egyptian regime, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia opened have looked to resolve their long standing dispute over the use of Nile water and the countries established a tripartite technical committee to assess the possible impacts of the dam.

In recent years, Ethiopia has been investing billions of dollars in building power plants to further its ambitions of becoming a regional power hub. In February 2012 Ethiopia completed a World Bank funded US$41 million power transmission line that links its power grid with neighbouring Sudan enabling the latter to import an initial 100 MW of electricity. The 230 kV and 296 km long transmission line stretches between the Ethiopian towns of Bahir-Dar and Metema and connects with a transmission line in the Sudanese border town of Gedaref where it joins Sudan’s power grid.

Ethiopia currently exports 35 MW to Djibouti for which it receives about US$1.5 million a month.

Ethiopia also plans to export 400 MW of hydro generated electricity to Kenya by 2016 when a transmission line project is completed. The country has long-term plans to supply power to South Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, and Yemen. Ethiopia, Africa’s leading coffee exporter, hopes to make electricity rather than coffee its biggest export when the power plants under construction and other new dams are completed in the next five to 10 years.