Ethiopia is trying to overcome its internal divisions by amassing more widespread support for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River that has been under construction since 2011.
The East African country faces mounting international pressure around the highly controversial dam, raising tensions with downstream countries - Egypt and Sudan.
Moreover, Addis Ababa has come under harsh criticism after losing the conflict in the Tigray region.
Several initiatives to collect public donations to finish constructing the dam, which is around 80% built, have been launched by the Ethiopian government.
The latest initiative features an official platform set up exclusively to gather donations from Ethiopians worldwide.
Although observers agree that local donations will hardly have a substantial impact, the initiative comes to promote the project and overcoming political, economic, and ethnic divisions and crises that have weakened Ethiopia’s sense of national unity.
According to an official report, more than $132,000 was collected on the newly formed platform in just 48 hours.
Addis Ababa relies on the platform to enhance the contribution of Ethiopians from all over the world to support the dam.
“Popular support for the dam is increasing, especially after the successful completion of the second filling, which ended last month,” said Hailu Abraham, Public Relations Head at Office of Ethiopia National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of GERD.
According to Abraham, Addis Ababa collected ETB 2.49 billion from Ethiopians in the last fiscal year and had received over ETB 15.7 billion in contributions since 2011.
Despite the generous donations of Ethiopians, Egypt’s former minister of irrigation and water resources, Mohamed Nasr Eldin Allam, deemed the notion of Ethiopians building the dam on their own unrealistic.
“The talk that the people’s donation finances the dam is not true,” said Allam, adding that popular aids are only a drop in the sea of international funding estimated at $6 billion.