Last February-while Egypt is busy with managing the post-Mubarak era-Burundi joined several fellow upstream countries in an alternative Nile Basin initiative, allowing the pact to come into force without Egypt’s approval.
Tensions in the Nile Basin between upstream and downstream countries have long been a key diplomatic issue for Egypt.
The current legal framework of that organizes the Nile water share is based on two international treaties signed in 1929 and 1959.
In 1929, imperial Britain, representing a number of Nile Basin countries, granted Egypt the right to veto any irrigation or hydro-power projects proposed by upstream countries.
The colonial-era 1929 treaty, as well as the 1959 Nile water agreement with Sudan, gave Egypt the lion’s share of Nile water i.e 55.5 billion square meters of water annually, out of the estimated 84 billion square meters that flow through Sudan.
The new pact called the Cooperative Framework Agreement which would enable Ethiopia to build dams and export power to neighboring countries.
The Economist this week has said that:
How will Ethiopia pay? Chinese banks are apparently underwriting the cost of turbines and other electrical equipment. That still leaves one of the poorest countries in the world a good $3 billion short. Some engineers think the cost will exceed $4.8 billion. Ethiopians are being urged to subscribe to a bond issue on patriotic grounds. But it is unlikely to generate more than a fraction of the required amount. Neither the World Bank nor private investors are willing to put up the cash, since Ethiopia has failed to create partnerships with power companies in neighbouring countries to which it could sell electricity. The Nile’s geology may be favourable for dam building, but the flow of money is not.