The 10 Nile Basin countries have committed to make use of Nile water and other water resources in the Basin to meet various water demands, including in the area energy generation and trade, to spur regional economic growth.
They contend that the goals could be achieved through cooperation and partnerships.
The development follows talks involving more than 400 participants from member states and beyond who had convened for the fifth Nile Basin Development Forum in Kigali, which concluded on Wednesday.
By 2050, the population of the Nile Basin countries is projected to more than double, from around 400 million to one billion.
This issue, coupled with changes in the climate and the desired socio-economic transformation, will put even greater pressure on Nile Basin water resources, as an input for increased food and energy production as well as the growing population and economies will result in more water demand for domestic, and industrial use, according to information from Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).
In his closing remarks, the Rwandan Minister for Environment, Dr Vincent Biruta, said the forum was characterised by ‘fruitful, frank and open discussions, ending on a note of optimism.’
“And I should say conditional optimism because it will depend on cooperation,” he said, to a loud applause from an audience that included water ministers, members of parliament and water experts as well as representatives of civil society organisations.
“Cooperation, I think that word was most used during these last three days and we should go beyond only using that word, and implement the cooperation mechanism in our Basin,” he said.
“The scope and depth of the shared understanding gained here will surely transform perspectives in water scarcity related issues globally.”
He pointed out that the recommendations agreed in Kigali will inform regional and national agenda for water resources management and development.
The Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat Executive Director, Eng. Innocent Ntabana, said that sustainable Nile cooperation is key to a water secure future in the Nile Basin.
“I, therefore, urge you (member states) to take forward the messages and possible solution pathways emerging from this forum as well as the network established to contribute to a water secure future in the Nile Basin Region and, consequently, make it a best place for all living beings,” he said.
Ethiopia is setting up a mega energy project — the Grand Renaissance Dam — at the Nile River, which the Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity for Ethiopia, Eng. Sileshi Bekele, said represents an opportunity in the region for power access.
The dam will store over 15 billion cubic meters of water (annually), which will generate more than 6,000 Megawatts at a cost of about $3.5 billion, according to Bekele.
“Africa is developing large capacity infrastructure that could nurture the development of its treasury,” Bekele said.
“If we don’t have energy, we can’t move the economy of the region,” he noted.
He said that the countries have already started collaborating on energy transmission projects.
“We are discussing transmission lines that could generate up to 3,000 Megawatts, and connected to Egypt,” he said.
“We are envisaging the merger of energy highway between Entebbe (Uganda) and Kenya that will transmit up to 2,000 Megawatts through Kenya to connect Tanzania, and we have MoU to connect with South Sudan.
“These are real opportunities to integrate our energy systems,” he noted.
Prof. Seifeldin H. Abdalla, Chairman of Water Resources at the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity in Sudan, said that climate change and degradation, especially in the high lands of Ethiopia, floods and droughts are among the challenges that affect the Basin.
“All these (challenges) don’t recognise boundaries, so we have to tackle them in a holistic approach which necessitates that we cooperate,” Abdalla said.
“We have too many opportunities in the Nile Basin, we can create interdependencies among the countries, and this is going to be for the benefits and the welfare of the citizens of the Nile Basin,” he said.