EU to Grant $15.8m Fund for Nile Basin Initiative


Egypt was said to have been against the move, the fund will be used for transboundary water management projects




The European Development Fund (EDF) Committee has given a qualified majority favourable opinion to commit 15.8 million dollars for the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) on July 18, 2017, although Egypt was lobbying against it.

Out of the total fund, the European Union will cover 11.7 million dollars, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation & Development (BMZ) will cover the balance.

The fund, which is expected to be approved by the European Union Commission (EUC) in two weeks’ time, according to the spokesperson of the German Embassy in Addis Abeba, will be used for generating data and information to manage and use the transboundary waters sustainably.

“It aims at supporting knowledge-based water management and sustainable development that NBI member countries have regarding the Nile cooperation,” the Spokesperson wrote in an email sent to Fortune.

Intending not to see the approval, Egypt has been asking for a postponement of it until the Entebbe Summit is over, hoping that things would change afterwards, according to sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

The Entebbe Summit, a meeting of heads of state upon the invitation of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, was held last month. Egypt was expecting that the three clauses that it rejects in the Entebbe agreement may get consideration in the summit, according to the same sources.

The three conditions that Egypt suggests are that water quotas have to be distributed based on population size and demand; it has to be notified before any project is started on the upper Nile countries; and unanimous voting has to be the norm instead of a majority voting system in a decision-making process.

Nevertheless, the Egyptian government has failed to convince the Nile Basin countries and was unable to amend its three concerns at the Entebbe Summit on June 22, 2017, according to sources.

A source at the Delegation of the European Union to Ethiopia (DEUE) confirmed that the EDF committee has already given a positive opinion to release the fund but refrained from giving any comment on Egypt’s stand, claiming that he had no information on the issue.

Egypt is among the founders of the NBI, and it is happy about any achievements of the Initiative, according to Abubakr Hefny, Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia.

“It is not true that Egypt is against such kinds of support from anyone to the Nile Basin countries, but it wants to see a fair treatment and the implementation of consensus in the decision making processes,” Aboubakir said.

The finance will help to do more research on how the Nile Basin countries enhance their peaceful cooperation in using the water resources, believes Fekiahmed Negash, executive director of the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO).

The German embassy’s spokesperson shares Fekiahmed’s comment.

“The finance will help realise the NBI member states’ shared vision that guides their efforts to manage the Basin’s water resources cooperatively and sustainably,” said the spokesperson.

The support may have a diplomatic message, beyond promoting sustainable development, according to Yakob Arsano (PhD), a hydro politics expert.

Yakob thinks that the global diplomatic community does support the equitable use and sharing of benefits from the common water resources of the Basin which is also in line with the Entebbe Cooperative Framework Agreement.

Established 18 years ago, the NBI is an intergovernmental partnership of 10 Nile Basin countries, namely Kenya, Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with Eritrea as an observer. In 2010, Egypt withdrew its membership claiming that the Entebbe Agreement is against its interests.

The Initiative provides a forum for coordination and consultation among the members of sustainable development and management of the shared Nile Basin waters and related resources for mutual benefits.

The Cooperative Framework Agreement or Entebbe Agreement is a treaty subject to ratification. Unless countries do sign or ratify, the treaty has no legal obligation of implementation on them.

Its purpose is to promote integrated management, sustainable development, and harmonious utilisation of the water resources of the Basin, as well as their conservation and protection for the benefit of present and future generations. So far Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi have signed the agreement. The rest, including Egypt, did not.



By WOLDEGIORGIS GHEBREHIWOT
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

Published on Jul 26,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 900]


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