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Africa | Feb 25, 2018

Nile Day Celebrations stress the need to strengthen cooperation among states

UN Economic Commission for Africa

Addis Ababa, 22 February 2018 (ECA) - The Nile is our strongest potential for transformational development and the most tangible metaphor for bringing together economic growth, environmental preservation and social inclusion. The statement was made by Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the opening of the 12thRegional Nile Day Celebrations, held on the theme: “The Nile: Shared River, Collective Action.”

She highlighted the economic and ecological importance of the Nile, in particular, the significant impact on human socioeconomic and wellbeing of African peoples. “It gave birth to entire civilizations; and today feeds millions of people who continue to expect benefits from sustainable development and management of this shared crucial resource,” she said.

The Nile Basin covers ten counties with an area of about 3.1 million km2 and represents 10% of the African continent. Despite considerable variation in the distribution, the Basin receives annual average rainfall of about 650 mm. The total annual flow volume of the Nile is estimated to be 84 billion cubic meters. The Blue Nile alone contributes 86% of Nile waters (roughly 1600 m3 /s); but it is also highly seasonal and influenced by the variations in climate and topography/altitude, slight changes in temperature averages or extremes that do have significant impact on the streamflow patterns

Ms. Songwe stressed that unleashing the full potential of Nile water resources will certainly be central to accelerate economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development. She also called for strengthening cooperation among states, noting its “critical importance particularly in the face of climate change where various predictions show increased water scarcity in the years to come,” she said.

There are a number of water governance frameworks in place aimed at equitable utilization and minimization of potential risks of conflicts, and to ensure sustainability of water resources. Good examples of regional projects, including the ongoing 80 megawatts Rusumo Regional Project whose electricity will be equally shared among Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, were highlighted, demonstrating strong cooperation between states in the management and equitable utilization of shared water resources. “Similar, cooperation initiatives across the Basin could improve access to clean renewable energy, boost economic development and have a positive effect on the environment,” urged Songwe.

“Africa’s growth and continued prosperity depends on the proper management of our waters. The Nile does not only play a unique role in the cultural heritage of Africa but is also an important extension for achieving sustainable development and the realization of Agendas 2030 and 2063,” said Ms Songwe.

“The Nile is our strongest potential for transformational development and the most tangible metaphor for bringing together economic growth, environmental preservation and social inclusion,” she said.

For his part, Ethiopia’s President, Mulatu Teshome highlighted many of the challenges on the radar of the Nile Basin Initiative and stressed that when 250 million people – soon to reach 500 million are dependent on a common resource, the Nile, efforts must be made to use its waters efficiently, responsibility and cooperatively. “What happens upstream affects downstream countries and vice versa,” he said.

Also present at the celebrations were members of the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM), and other key actors in the Nile Basin Initiative, as well as representatives from the diplomatic corps and UN agencies.