Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 17 October 2011 – Countries in East and Central Africa have agreed to use the waters of the River Nile to generate power, but are facing resistance from Sudan and Egypt, who are raising concerns about water security.

Nile Technical Advisory Committee chairperson Fred Mwango told a Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) meeting here that Egypt and Sudan were still wary of water security due to their countries’ geographic locations.

Stretching more than 6,600km from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean, the Nile is a vital water and energy source for the nine countries through which it flows.

“It is important to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilisation and benefit from the common Nile Basin resources,” Mwango told the meeting.
He said the project, expected to take off by 2035, would help reduce power interruptions that have been adversely affecting the economies of most of the Nile Basin countries.

“The objective is to focus on facilitating the development of regional power markets among the Nile Basin countries including Burundi, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda,” he added.

He challenged the NBI countries to take bold decisions in addressing the endemic and recurring power problems in the region by embracing a regional approach to planning and exploitation of energy resources.

Mwango said the key findings of an NBI study showed that member countries stood to achieve significant efficiency gains in power production, and to create a positive environment for power trade.

“Nile Basin Initiative countries should not be afraid of taking daring decisions in overcoming their power problems. We have been losing out due to the power crisis,” Mr Mwango said.
He cited Ethiopia and the DRC as countries capable of generating enough power to be distributed around the region and even exported to Europe.

Less than 20% of the 300 million inhabitants of the NBI countries had access to electricity, while in some the figure was as low as 3%.

Annual per-capita electricity consumption in the Basin ranges from 1,800kWh in Egypt to only 20kWh in Burundi, whereas per capita consumption of 500kWh is considered a minimum level by today’s standards.