Most Nile River Basin states have materialized their commitments of developing the Nile watercourse by signing the Cooperative Framework of Agreement (CFA) on Nile. The parliaments of three countries; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda have made` a final headway ratifying the document which ensures the equitable use of and benefit from the waters of the Nile to all the riparian countries.
Of course, the CFA is a guarantee to sustain the flow and volume of the river which is home to over 400 million people whose life primarily depended on rain-fed agriculture. The signatory and ratifying countries’ decision is, therefore, believed to lead the poor people of the basin into the limelight of prosperity.
Coupled with rapid population projection in the Basin states –one billion by 2050, Nature Climate Change (2017) – climatic variability makes the development of the river system a matter of survival than a mere option. For this to happen, the rest signatories have historic responsibility of green lighting the CFA to ensure the development of the river system.
Available resources of the riparian should wisely be used to boost agricultural production and productivity, and to advance the clean energy mix of countries, among others. In this regard, the Basin States are endowed with various comparative advantages. For instance, the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) would avail the opportunity to reserve large amount of water with less evaporation, besides producing 6,450 MW of energy. Sudan can get regulated flow of water all the year round, as a result of GERD, to develop its vast fertile lands. This also holds true for Egypt.
But, to harness more benefits from the river system, the States should (bring in to play) the basin-wide institution promised in the CFA—Nile River Basin Commission (NRBC). And all what it takes to establish the NRBC is pursuing the agreed political commitment.
Individual countries like Ethiopia may exercise the right to develop themselves within the principles of equitable and reasonable use of waters in their boundaries. The GERD, for instance, takes the principles of ‘equitable and reasonable use’ as well as ‘non-significant harm’ into account. The people of the country living in the basin system as well are building conservational structures and transplanting tree seedlings to sustain the flow and volume of the waters—activity estimated to worth hundreds of thousands of USD.
However, the unilateral move could be a means to harness the river but not an end in itself. Thus, all the eleven countries of the Basin should come at confluence to develop the entire region. As the countries are in one river system, not in a separate river systems, any shock upstream, would be felt at the remote end of the delta. And the CFA is the only legal rallying factor for the countries to realize concerted development.
Of course, four more countries, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi and South Sudan have already started the ratification procedure.
But, the remaining downstream countries have to include themselves in the entire process of cooperation. In fact, signatory and ratifying countries have made repeated call, and also created several platforms to the downstream countries to enable them join the cooperative table without any precondition. Sudan has understood the benefits of cooperation, and it has come on board in 2013. Yet, it has not signed the CFA. Egypt, which could benefit more from cooperation, needs to do a sober analysis on the cost of non-cooperation. Though, Egypt shuns from the cooperative table, the “Nile Council of Ministers Extraordinary meeting held In Kinshasa, DRC on 22 May 2009” [as indicated in the CFA] decided to annex article 14b of the CFA to be resolved within six months of NRBC establishment—a good gesture to bring Egypt to the cooperation though it has not yet embraced it.
Upper riparian countries and downstream South Sudan have shown their commitments to the entire development of the Basin countries. And three countries have a historic opportunity to consummate the ratification and bringing a new legal legacy into reality. By doing so, the countries would assure their places in the history of the Basin for bringing a new basin-wide legal reign.