All aboard the Nile Basin! Why only collective action will enable us to reach our destination

You need to get home but the bus keeps breaking down. If all passengers on the bus combine efforts and push, they can successfully reach their destination – safe and sound. However, instead, some prefer to remain on board and not contribute to the collective effort. Eventually those pushing become exhausted and the destination is not reached. The bus is left abandoned by the side of the road. No destination and a broken bus – and confused passengers.

Eng. Innocent Ntabana: Executive Director, Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Secretariat

Eng. Innocent Ntabana: Executive Director,Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Secretariat

Now imagine that instead everyone agrees to contribute their energies for a collective cause. Definitely, they will be able to jointly work out the best route to reduce their combined efforts and they will ensure a garage is reached to fix the engine. Quickly the bus is up and running again and they continue their commutes day after day, prospering from an efficient and reliable transport service. Life goes on and everyone benefits and recognises it.

Now turn the bus into the Nile basin and its ecosystems, a source of livelihoods for over 250 million people in the 11 riparian countries, but now facing enormous challenges of different natures. The passengers are the Nile countries sharing the basin, traversing ecological and hydrological boundaries characterised by diversity. We all in principle benefit from this shared system, but we are concerned about flooding, wetland degradation, climate change, water pollution, drought, food insecurity and unreliable access to electricity.

We need to ensure the basin keeps on delivering the services we need for our common health, wealth and growth. As pressure on the system rises, a major breakdown would be a catastrophe for all people sharing this key resource. Our task as ‘basin passengers’ on this long journey is to figure out how to care for and nurture the system that has a great potential to provide multiple benefits at many different levels for all peoples and countries sharing this basin. But the potential needs to be transformed into tangible benefits that reach wider levels of societies.

If, say, the 10 Nile Basin Initiative Member States each decided to work disconnected of their neighbours’ plans, as the system starts to break down, soon we will face the realisation that only genuine collective approaches will help us continue to reach our respective destinations – the many services and securities provided by this shared resource. The Nile Basin Initiative, an intergovernmental cooperative platform established on February 22, 1999, provides such a collective umbrella – a ‘passenger union’ if you will – with the capacity to enable countries sharing the basin to cooperate in identifying and carrying out joint approaches.

The NBI Strategy – the focus of the collective effort – identifies six strategic priorities to emphasise in the coming 10 years.

1) Enhancing availability and sustainable management of the transboundary Nile water resources;
2) Enhancing hydropower development and increasing interconnectivity of electric grids and power trade in the basin;
3) Introducing and promoting, through analytical work, an approach that examines and proposes options for addressing the water-food nexus;
4) Conducting diagnostic studies and preparing inventories to promote the wise use and sustainable management of wetlands of transboundary significance;
5) Improving basin resilience to climate change impacts;
6) Addressing the issue of transboundary water governance.

Our strategy is central to ensuring that we – the passengers sharing this key resource – continue to work collectively and treat the Nile basin as shared resource that will help all of us reach our destination and achieve our goals – together!

Eng. Innocent Ntabana
Executive Director
Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Secretariat