Nile Basin cooperation is akin to teamwork in sports
- Created: 13 July 2016
For any football team, there are a goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders, strikers and the coach. These entities blend together to secure victory for their team.
Separately, they would achieve nothing, for it is through teamwork (cooperation) that the eleven players can face their opponents (challenges) and win. The players are organised into two teams. On the one hand is the Nile basin states: Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; and on the other are all the drivers including poverty, population growth, environmental degradation, climate change and natural variability.
Each team is chasing a piece of skin – the scarce Nile river water resources for their livelihood – to drive into the opponent’s net and win the game. On that basis, a lone Nile basin player cannot assume all the positions and win the game. It takes each player focusing on their key role in the grand scheme of things – the team and the game – for them to achieve their common goal.
All but one of these countries have agreed to work together under a unique cooperation programme coordinated by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) to achieve a common goal – improve the livelihoods of the more than 437 million Nile basin citizens, in the wake of shared risks and challenges affecting their shared resource, the River Nile. Eritrea participates as an observer.
Just like in football, where players avoid errors such as scoring own goals or being caught offside, the NBI has created an atmosphere of trust through which member states can work as a team, exchanging ideas and expressing occasional dissatisfaction while still respecting each player’s importance to overall sustainability of the river.
Seventeen years since it was established, NBI has promoted cooperation by overcoming a legacy of distrust and challenges between countries in terms of politics, water demands and development status.
Where there was limited capacity in the water sector at national and regional level, NBI has sponsored hundreds of individuals to undergo both academic and hands-on training in water-related courses. Today, water resources projects are considered for their basin-wide implications, and the potential for shared benefits from more equitable and reasonable sharing of the resource is fully understood.
NBI has successfully created an enabling environment for sustainable and equitable development of the Nile basin water resources. Trans-boundary cooperation has advanced regional integration through identifying and developing joint investments. By working to improve food, energy and water security as well as trade and incomes, transformational change is being achieved.
These benefits are clearly visible in the region, including regional power interconnection and hydropower projects between Ethiopia and Kenya, and Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Additional projects are proving to be transformative and are improving the resilience of some of the poorest communities in the basin. Once fully implemented, these projects promise to benefit nearly 30 million people in the next 10 years.
At least seven million people will have improved food security from the watershed and agriculture irrigation projects, over three million people will have better access to water for sanitation and some 22 million people are expected to become more energy-secure through more reliable power supply and lower power-generation costs.
One project recently commissioned is the Ethiopia/Sudan interconnection hydropower project is already benefiting 1.4 million people in both countries. The upcoming Annual Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) meeting on July 14, 2016 in Entebbe, Uganda will see water affairs ministers from the region deliberate on how to expedite implementation of already-prepared projects.
The ministers will also discuss how to achieve basin-wide Nile Cooperation, given that this is no longer a a choice, but a necessity.
On that day, Tanzania’s minister for water and irrigation, Eng Gerson Lwenge, will pass the captain’s armband to Uganda’s minister for water and environment, Sam Cheptoris, as the team continues to play for victory.
The author is the executive director, NBI secretariat.