In this column one shall try to give an idea about the natural potential of the major users of water along the river Nile mainly Sudan
, Ethiopia, Egypt, South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. The major characteristic of all these NB nations is their dependence on agriculture, maybe the exception being Egypt which achieved a certain level of industrialization.
Taking Sudan one finds that after 60 years of independence about 65-70 of the population of are still engaged in agriculture both plant and animal, nomads and artisans with only 30 contribution to the GDP. The only exception being the period 1999-2011 when Sudan was an oil exporting country. After 2011 the South Sudan departed as a new African state taking with it about 75 % of oil produced in Sudan. However, the country did not make use of the oil revenues in developing the major human activity in the country which was in agriculture. Its major activity was in Cotton production in the Gezira Scheme. This project was established by the British administration to grow Cotton as a major export commodity to feed Lanacshire mills with raw Cotton, a source which the British lost as a result of the American civil war. Cotton became the major activity that sustained the country for many decades. The rest of country was left for some subsistence farming as well livestock rearing in a traditional was in addition to Artisans. The Cotton activity was centred in the Gezira area and the rest of the country was cut off from the centre through the Closed Districts Ordinance of 1925.This law was meant to stop people from drifting to centre thus disturbing the production and export of Cotton to Britain.
Sudan remained to be known and endowed with huge natural resources in terms of land, water and various belts and about 200 million acres ( reduced by the departure of the South Sudan).There were also other crops of oil seeds gum Arabic, Sorghum etc. The major export remained Cotton.68 % of the Nile passes through Sudan. Together with Ethiopia both own the largest livestock in Africa.
Egypt is also largely an agricultural country but has less land but with a relatively dense population of about 90 million people who need to have water from the Nile. The Nile is its main life line since it is user of water not source of it. In other words it is downstream for the water that originates from the heart of Africa and the Indian Ocean. The water policy is always at the centre of its main preoccupation with its neighbours up stream specially Sudan, Ethiopia and the rest of the Nile Basin countries. It has a hardworking population. However one major issue is that together with Sudan Egypt sticks to its historical rights on the water that it does not produce given to it by foreign powers who ruled Egypt (e.g. the 1929 and 1902 agreements).In all its policies towards the Nile water Egypt stand to defend fiercely her historical rights. This is true also of Sudan which followed Egypt since both did not sign the Entebbe Agreement which among other things was meant to revise the historical water rights rather than thinking about such rights in a narrow subjective and self centred attitude. The matter still holds. So Egypt suffers from dense population, paucity of cultivable land and depends on its water on the Nile without providing to it one gallon of water.
As for Ethiopia, being in the highlands of Eastern Africa provides the main Nile by about 86 % of the water that flows through the Blue Nile into Sudan. 68 % of the Nile flows through Sudan. It is also characterized by dense population of about 90 and paucity of cultivable land necessary to feed the Ethiopian population. It is a fast growing economy. Being ignored throughout recent history ( not consulted in the 1959 agreement between Sudan and Egypt) which led among other things to the recurrent famines, it decided to build the RD to produce energy which created considerable disagreement specially on the part of which led Egypt to object to storing of water behind the RD will affect the size of the flow to Egypt. The Sudan stood on the side of Ethiopia in the belief that Sudan could benefit from the RD. This was more of politics than economic advantages due to the usual unease in relations between Sudan and Egypt in recent times. As to the other members of the Nile Basin countries who happen to be in the upper reaches of the Nile, they seem to be less affected. The major conflicts remain among the three major users of the Nile i.e. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The countries of the Nile Basin although mostly agricultural economies that depend on land ,labour and water (which are important factors of production) are endowed differently. No one country combines these factors together in an adequate supply so that it will go it alone. Ethiopia has dense population as mentioned, not enough cultivable land but contributes 86 % of the Nile water. The Sudan in spite of the departure of the South Sudan has abundant cultivable land, no population pressure and 68% of the two Niles pass through it stretched terrain. As for Egypt it has a fast growing population, with small size of cultivable land not enough to feed the hard working population and contributes nothing of water to the resources of the Nile. All these countries depended on historical right and all tend to behave in a subjective manner never thinking of the other participants and only caring for the population in their area ignoring the others. This is implicitly felt by the refusal of both Sudan and Egypt not signing the Entebbe agreement until this moment.
Now the world is fast changing and the world resources are not so much in abundance such that no one country can claim to develop itself through its own means. Worse off is the result of some recent research which showed the possibility of declining water resources of the Nile if not disappearing. Therefore, in a world such as this the countries of the Nile Basin has to start thinking loudly to relinquish their selfish attitudes and think seriously about a logical dispassionate ways to come together and forget their naïve attitudes which will not help if not lead to wars and conflicts.
In a hopeful call made recently by the President of Egypt in his Ramadan visit to Uganda which I came to hear in the news ,”that he lauded the President of Uganda and called for a more serious way of working together to develop the peoples of Nile Basin and alleviate their poverty.” This is a polite indication that the current efforts of joint projects did not deliver the goods. Another rare call was made recently in the annual meeting ,by the President of the African Development Bank that serious attention has to be given to the issue of agricultural development in Africa.
The two noble calls are well taken although coming a bit late, yet both are mostly welcome and deserve serious attention by policy-makers in Africa. Both calls did not elaborate on how to go about such noble development. This is a mammoth task which should be taken care of by African technicians through a proper planning body and combine between all these factors of production and legitimate water needs of all the members of the Nile Basin nation that will make them talk less about historical rights and more about benefits and welfare for all.This is what one intends to elaborate on in the last column (4-4)..