Supporting hydro diplomacy in the Nile Basin

Project description

Project title: Supporting transboundary water cooperation in the Nile Basin
Commissioned by: Auswärtiges Amt (AA)
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
Overall term: 2002 to 2020


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 freshwater reservoir in the region.

Demand for water in the entire region is constantly increasing 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 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 between themselves, and 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.


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


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

  1. Facilitating a process with member states so they can conduct a joint analysis of the current and projected future water balance for the Nile Basin. The project thus contributes to developing options for better basin-wide water resources management.
  2. Laying the foundations for cooperative Nile Basin planning. The first step is to develop a new strategic plan for NBI, which expires in 2017.
  3. Strengthening the application of existing policies, guidelines and standards in member states.
  4. Supporting work to positively shape public opinion in member states in the sense of cooperative water resources management. This opens up scope for political decision-makers. The media team for the Nile Basin Secretariat is receiving support in responding more to the issues presently being discussed in the Nile Basin.

In addition, GIZ advises the NBI Secretariat on issues relating to strategic planning and the institutional and financial sustainability of the organisation.


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 between the Nile Basin riparian states.
With the NBI Secretariat, an effective organisation that is capable of delivering the services expected from a river basin organization has been built: it is supporting 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 of the issues relating to transboundary water management. The organisation’s capabilities and skills are now being utilised more widely at 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 significantly contributed 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 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 interconnecting regional power networks so that the benefits of hydropower development in one part of the basin can be shared with other Nile Basin riparian states, thereby defusing conflicts over water allocation.