Uganda is not hosting the secretariat of the Nile Basin Initiative for nothing, one would perhaps say.
Our country is one of the top beneficiaries of investment projects ranging from power interconnections, to fisheries development, irrigation projects as well as wetland/ecosystem management and livelihoodprojects that have been developed by teams of experts at the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) based in Entebbe.
This comes against concerns raised by some members of the regional cooperation body and indeed some experts that the benefits of cooperation are too few and not fairly distributed.
During virtual celebrations held recently to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the founding of the NBI, leaders from especially the Eastern Nile region countries such as Sudan and South Sudan, expressed concern that investments were too slow.
Sudan’s Minister for Water and Irrigation Yassir Abaas Mohamed expressed disappointment that his country has missed out on several investment projects, save for just one project – the power inter-connection between Sudan and Ethiopia.
South Sudan too, according to NELSAP, is lagging behind in implementation of investment projects. The country’s Water Ministry officials blamed the slow pace on shortage of expertise in its ranks to pursue the projects beyond proposal stage to full implementation.
Kyomuhendo argued that delays among member countries to implement the proposed projects, is likely to undermine the attainment of NBI shared vision of promoting socio-economic benefits for the people and countries of the Nile Basin.
But according to Dr. Callist Tindimugaya, the Commissioner for Water Resources Planning and Regulation in the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda is not among the countries complaining because it has received what he described as tremendous support by way of investment projects by NBI.
He attributed this to Uganda’s willingness to take up proposed investments by the NBI team.
According to NBI’s Head of Public Relations, Jane Kyomuhendo says it is the responsibility of member states to fundraise and implement the proposed projects.
Dr. Callist, as he’s fondly known in the water circles, confirmed that NBI has not only proposed relevant projects for Uganda, they have also gone ahead to carry out feasibility studies.
“Very soon we are meeting with the World Bank to conclude the Kabuyanda multi-purpose irrigation scheme project which they have agreed to fund,” added Callist.
The Kabuyanda multi-purpose irrigation scheme is a 5000 hectare irrigation project with capacity to generate close to 2MW of power in Isingiro district.
Tindimugaya however expressed concern that different government agencies such as Uganda’s Ministry of Energy, have not done a good job of creating awareness about the benefits of Nile Cooperation by failing to indicate that some of the projects they implement originated from the NBI.
He cited Uganda – DR Congo (Nkenda – Beni) and (Butembo – Bunia) Power Transmission line, a 220KV of 396 km of which 72.5 km is in Uganda, as one example of the fruits of Nile cooperation but one that has not been acknowledged properly by energy ministry officials.
The Uganda-DR transmission is still at feasibility study stage with funding from the African Development Bank.
However, according to Polycarp Otieno, the Communications officer of The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP), the implenting arm of the NBI, two more power interconnection projects, one with Rwanda and another with Kenya are already under implementation.
In total Uganda is counting at least 8 completed projects out of a total of 26 proposed projects by NBI experts.
This is in addition to several other joint benefits such as capacity building arrangements through which dozens of civil servants from the ministry of water have received advanced training up to Masters level on issues relating to water.
Commissioner Tindimugaya downplayed the slow rate of implementation among the Eastern Nile Countries, on differences in opinion regarding the country’s priorities especially regarding transboundary projects.
Although Commissioner Tindimugaya cited unmet high expectations among Eastern Nile member states, a comparative view of the projects in the two regions, suggests a major divide.
Sudan and Ethiopia have one completed shared project, while South Sudan has not realized any project to date.
It’s under this atmosphere of delays and uncoordinated investments, therefore that NBI has chosen to focus on:
“Rethinking investments in the Nile Basin” as the theme of its forthcoming 6th Nile Basin Development Forum scheduled to take place virtually before a formal meeting takes place in Ethiopia in April 2021