On the heels of its Suez Canal expansion, Egypt has signed a grant agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to explore the feasibility of creating a cross-continent shipping line which would expand the Nile River and connect the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Victoria.
The $650,000 grant will be paid by the Korea-Africa Economic Trust Fund, an AfBD entity, and finance the first phase of the required initial feasibility studies for the establishment of the cross-continent shipping line.
The project aims to convert the Nile River into a sustainable transport line and link Nile Basin countries such as Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
If successful, the project could increase encourage trade and increase economic collaboration between the Nile Basin’s countries.
The project was initially agreed to by heads of state at the January 2013 African Summit.
But while the Nile Basin’s nations feel bullish about the project’s potential, it has sparked debate and criticism. According to a Alexandria University study, the proposed shipping line may not only be difficult to complete, but impossible.
The study contends that there are several engineering issues that must be overcome to make the shipping lane a reality. The Nile is dotted with dams, bridges and waterfalls which could cause difficulty in constructing the cross-continent line.
The Aswan reservoir poses an additional problem. Its five lock chambers have a water height differential of about 98 feet. While the lock could potentially facilitate river transportation, it has not been used or renovated since 1961. In addition, the Aswan Dam creates another obstacle as its water differentials range between 350 and 600 feet and would require massive renovation as well.
AfDB is a multilateral development finance institution established to contribute to the economic development and social progress of African countries. The AfDB was founded in 1964 and comprises three entities: The African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund.