Transboundary water cooperation in the Nile Basin

Project description

Title: Support of transboundary water cooperation in the Nile River Basin
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union
Countries: Uganda, headquarters of the Nile Basin Initiative; cooperation with other Nile Basin riparian states: Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania
Lead executing agency: Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)
Overall term: 2002 to 2021

Uganda. Source of the Nile in Jinja © GIZ


The Nile is 6,695 kilometres long, making it the longest river on Earth. Its catchment area covers around a tenth of the surface of Africa and is home to almost a quarter of the African population. For these people, the river is by far the most important source of freshwater in the region.

Demand for water throughout the region is constantly growing due to economic development and population growth. However, water resources are already being intensively utilised, and climate change and land use changes are also having a negative impact on water availability. The Nile Basin is therefore classed as one of the world’s most conflict-prone river basins. The riparian states have not yet reached any agreement on water allocation.

In 1999, the Nile Basin states – currently comprising Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – founded the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Their aim was to facilitate dialogue among themselves and to advance joint water management projects.

Working in close coordination with other donors, Germany has been a partner to NBI and its member states for many years. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has been working with NBI since 2002. Since December 2017, the project has been cofinanced by the European Union (EU).


The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) has greater capacity to contribute to consensus building among riparian states through the sustainable and cooperative management and development of water resources in the Nile Basin.


In this joint project, GIZ supports NBI by providing technical and process advice in eight closely linked fields of activity:

  • Supporting dialogue and trust building among Nile Basin states.
  • Facilitating a process that enables member states to conduct a joint analysis of the current and projected future water balance for the Nile Basin, thus contributing to the development of options for better basin-wide water resource management.
  • Laying the foundations for joint Nile Basin planning by way of a knowledge-based and cooperative planning process.
  • Developing a Basin-wide, cross-sector investment programme, thereby contributing to better water, energy and food security in the region.
  • Strengthening the application of existing policies, guidelines and standards in member states.
  • Supporting Eastern Nile countries in laying the foundations for optimised joint management of dam cascades.
  • Developing a Basin-wide hydrological monitoring system, thus contributing to the exchange of information among Nile basin states.
  • Supporting efforts to positively influence public opinion in member states with the aim of encouraging cooperative water resource management. This opens up scope for political decision-makers. The media team for the Nile Basin Secretariat is receiving support in responding more effectively to issues currently being discussed in the Nile Basin.

The project also aims to strengthen individual capacities for cooperation in the Nile Basin as well as organisational capacities at NBI centres.

Results achieved so far

With the support of German international cooperation and other donors, a political initiative has been transformed into an established and well regarded platform for dialogue among the Nile Basin riparian states.

The NBI Secretariat is an effective organisation that is capable of delivering the services expected from a river basin organisation: it supports the exchange of information on water resources, is able to provide hydrological and socio-economic planning scenarios, and has reached an agreement with the Nile Basin riparian states on common principles and strategies for many issues relating to transboundary water management. The organisation’s capabilities and skills are now being utilised more widely at the regional level to assist in joint decision-making, and are also being applied in the member states’ own national planning processes.

Since its creation, the Nile Basin Initiative has contributed substantially to building trust and preventing conflict among Nile Basin states. Numerous water experts from all participating countries are now working together to find regional solutions that will benefit all member states. At the sub-basin level, NBI is coordinating investments in regionally coordinated infrastructure and watershed management projects with total value of around USD 1.4 billion. This includes linking regional power networks to enable the benefits of hydropower development in one part of the basin to be shared with other Nile Basin riparian states, thereby defusing conflicts over water allocation.

Additional information