The UAE has identified huge potential to extend its influence on the African continent, allocating a special minister to it. According to the French Africa Intelligence website, the UAE has close relations with presidents and senior officials in the countries of the continent, through which it looks forward to resolving the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis.

The report monitored the role of the new UAE Minister of State for African Affairs, 32-year-old Sheikh Shakhboot Bin Nahyan, in the first few months of his tenure, which came after the departure of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash from the position.

According to the site, Shakhboot brought the most knowledgeable experts to Abu Dhabi and made them sign non-disclosure agreements, spending huge amounts of money to assemble a top-level technical team.

While Gargash was a diplomat who was adept at nurturing and strengthening his relations with those he conversed with and happily moved about the cultural terrain, the new minister is distinguished in dealing with files, while surrounding himself with technical advisers. He also deliberately adopts an informal manner, which comes as a surprise to his African counterparts, as he does not hesitate to appear at high-profile meetings in jeans and trainers.

According to the website, Shakhboot has grown close to Senegalese President Macky Sall, and the Senegalese Minister of Economy, Planning and Cooperation, Amadou Haut. Over the course of more than a year, Shakhboot and Sall met on four occasions in Dakar, and in Abu Dhabi in the company of Mohammed Bin Zayed. In October 2021, Shakhboot was even awarded the National Order of the Lion, Senegal’s highest honour.

The website says that the Emirati official shows no signs of weakness, as Sheikh Shakhboot has taken over his country’s agenda in Africa over the past year. With the approaching rainy season and the third filling of the dam, Shakhboot now wants to achieve diplomatic success, as settling the Renaissance Dam dispute could also open the door to large irrigation and agricultural projects in Sudan, and the UAE seems very keen on owning land.

On paper, there is no Emirati mediation over the Renaissance Dam, as the African Union is officially responsible for finding a solution to this complex dilemma.

However, the problem is very thorny, and no one has yet succeeded in reconciling the positions of the three countries involved in the conflict.

From the beginning, Cairo asking for a comprehensive agreement that included both filling the reservoir of the Renaissance Dam (which will enter its third phase in the upcoming rainy season) and sharing the waters of the Nile. As for Addis Ababa, it prefers to separate the topics and issues from each other. In the middle is Khartoum, which is more concerned about the lack of technical data shared by the Ethiopian federal government, which has always protected the secrets of its massive project.