From October 16th to 17th, 2023, over 500 participants from the Nile Basin region and beyond gathered along the shores of Lake Victoria at the Speke Resort Hotel in Kampala to attend the 7th Nile Basin Development Forum (NBDF), which was hosted by the Government of Uganda for the very first time.
Held every three years with the support of the Nile Basin Initiative’s (NBI) partners and friends, the NBDF is a major gathering of the community of practice on transboundary water cooperation, providing a unique opportunity to share information, knowledge and best practices, expand networks, build a common understanding of the development challenges and opportunities of the basin, and provide suggestions for a common course of action for the sustainable management and development of the basin for the benefit of all the riparians of the Basin.
The seventh in its series, this year’s NBDF was held both physically and virtually (livestreamed on Zoom) and this was due to the success achieved at the 6th NBDF in holding the event in hybrid format.
Prior to the onsite event in Kampala, the 7th NBDF was preceded by 25 webinars which drew 1,061 people from 58 different countries. The webinars provided an opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics on the Nile under the overall theme of “Deepening Nile Cooperation: Accelerating the Achievement of SDGs in a Changing Climate.”
During this same period and acting as a promotional tool for the 7th NBDF, a group of determined walkers set out on a journey now known as the “700 Km Nile Walk” starting in Elegu (border between Uganda and South Sudan) and ending at Speke Resort in Kampala, with a brief detour in Jinja City, the Source of the Nile. This iconic event was an opportunity to highlight key issues regarding the threats the Nile River is facing from anthropogenic activity and provided a chance to hear from voices within the communities on the challenges they are facing and possible solutions.
The onsite event at Speke Resort Munyonyo was an opportunity to further delve into the 7th NBDF theme through keynote addresses, breakout parallel sessions, as well as stimulating panel discussions.
The Guest of Honor at the Opening Session on October 16th, 2023 was the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Jessica Alupo, who on top of her remarks, delivered a message from the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. In his remarks, H.E. Museveni highlighted the need for cooperation amongst all Nile Basin countries for not only the benefit of each country’s industrialization goals but also as a tool for job creation for the youth of the Nile Basin region.
Professor Patrick Otieno Lumumba, who delivered the keynote address warned that failure to cooperate on the use of transboundary water resources would likely result in not only conflict but also increased reliance on food importation ad dependence on international cooperation partners.
The fourth Nile Media Awards were held during the evening of the first day of the NBDF, to celebrate and reward outstanding journalistic work related to the Nile Basin, emphasising the importance of responsible and constructive media coverage that nurtures understanding and cooperation within the region.
Over 160 entries were received, highlighting the increasing interest and commitment from journalists across the basin. The awards serve as a platform to amplify Nile Basin-related stories, focusing on the basin's challenges, opportunities, and the shared experiences of its people.
The overall event was supported by GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Government, with individual categories sponsored by Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT), East African Radio Service (EARS), FOTEA Foundation, Nile Basin Discourse (NBD), InfoNile, and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
The 7th NBDF was closed by the Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Affairs of the Republic of Uganda on October 17th 2023, who in her message, also reiterated H.E. Yoweri K. Museveni’s call for cooperation.
The 7th NBDF ended with a call to action in transboundary water resources management and development encapsulated in the following recommendations:
Water Resources Management and Development
- The Nile riparian countries need to increase efforts to develop hydropower and promote regional power interconnection and power trade to improve regional energy security, and power industries thereby promoting job creation and catalyzing economic growth and at the same time relieving pressure on the environment which in turn with sustain Nile flows.
- The Nile region is suffering from impacts of global climate change and urgently needs to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, including development of multi-purpose storage reservoirs to smooth out the projected variability in extreme flows in the Nile.
- The Nile riparian countries need to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to regional trade in agriculture products to support efforts to attain regional food security.
- Generating knowledge and information products and promoting their use in decision making on the preparation of investment programs and the management and development of the Nile waters resources, is important to show the relevance of the water resources monitoring systems, decision support tools and strategic water resources assessments, and justifying more resource allocation towards their operation and maintenance of such tools.
- The Nile riparian countries need to embark on a stepwise approach to coordinate the operation of water infrastructure. The first level is proposed to be on sharing information about extreme river flows; the second level is on sharing reservoir operation rules, and the third level is on coordinated or joint infrastructure development, and long term operation of such infrastructure.
- Increased efforts are needed to mobilize innovative financial resources to implement the infrastructure development programs needed to alleviate poverty and reverse environmental degradation in the Nile Basin.
- The water sector needs to better articulate its importance in economic terms to be able to attract more financing in the national budgeting processes.
Transboundary Water governance
- Countries that have not yet ratified the CFA should do so to allow the CFA to come into force and allow for the establishment of the Nile River Basin Commission that will focus on deepening cooperation and expanding programs for the development and protection of the Nile water resources.
- A spirit of brotherhood and cooperation, and duty to use the common Nile water resources responsibly while respecting the rights of other riparian to benefit from the same resources needs to be nurtured among the NBI Member States.
- Sectors continue to operate in silos, and sharing of information and coordination in programmatic activities between water-related sectoral agencies remains weak, thereby affecting the ability to apply the water-energy-food nexus approach and integrated approach to protection of water and environmental resources. Greater effort is needed to increase cross-sectoral collaboration.
- Greater engagement is required between water and environment professionals, on the one hand, and politicians and policy makers, on the other hand, to ensure political support for water resources and environmental management and development programs.
- There is need for continuing education to attain and maintain high levels of competency in water diplomacy, and negotiation and communication skills among the staff of the riparian countries to be able to deal effectively with the complex issues and situations concerning the sustainable management and development of the transboundary Nile water resources.
- The NBI Member States need to deepen partnership with non-state actors as they are a critical mechanism for reaching out to and mobilizing grassroots communities to participate in transboundary water management programs and environmental protection.