CIWA in the Niger Basin

April 30, 2014


The Niger River is the economic mainstay for the nine riparian countries in the Basin – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. The Basin has tremendous potential for infrastructure development, including hydropower (760GWh installed capacity), a four-fold expansion of irrigation (up to 2 million ha) and the potential to create 1.7 million jobs. However, this potential remains significantly under-tapped, which limits economic growth and the improvement of livelihoods in the Basin. Seven of the nine Basin countries are among the 20 poorest countries in the world, with large income disparities in the richer basin countries. More than 50 percent of the population is under the age of 15. About 70 percent of the 100 million people in the Basin live in rural areas where food security and social well-being are largely dependent on unreliable rainfall and highly-variable river flow patterns. The Basin’s population is highly impacted by extreme climate and rainfall variability, both of which are likely to be exacerbated by climate change.

Cooperative management and development of water resources infrastructure can both boost growth, and transform the livelihoods of its people, including vulnerable and poor communities in rural, remote parts of the basin. For instance, enhanced environmental flows help support wetland ecosystems, sustain fisheries (an important source of income and protein for the poor); and provide watering holes for livestock (critical for semi-nomadic pastoralists, particularly in Sahel).  Expanded micro and large scale water storage is an important climate adaptation strategy and tool for empowering women, both by securing drinking water sources and opening up new livelihood opportunities through irrigation (agriculture remaining the dominant sector in most riparian countries). Enhanced navigation, including reduced cross-border red-tape, can unlock remote areas and poor landlocked countries such as Chad, Mali and Niger. With low electrification rates in the basin, hydropower generation remains the main source of untapped clean power for most countries.  Many of the benefits derived from cooperative water resources management and development can in turn help catalyze benefits beyond the river, including the development of agribusiness growth poles, enhancing regional trade (e.g. West Africa Power Pool) and enhancing prosperity and security in the basin.  The proposed program can be a vehicle for furthering transformative, strategic engagement in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and northern Nigeria.



Preliminary areas for engagement have been proposed by the Niger Basin Authority. The World Bank is supportive of these activities, and the partnership is developing plan for a sustained CIWA engagement to be implemented in the basin through the NBA.

Partner: Niger Basin Authority (NBA). The Niger Basin Authority (NBA) is the regional river basin organization with the mandate to promote cooperation among the nine member countries in developing and managing the Basin’s water resources. The NBA emerged from the now-defunct Niger River Commission (NRC) in 1980. After several attempts to overcome weak institutional, financial and technical capacity, limited progress was made until the late 1990s, when the cooperative framework for the Basin was revitalized by the Heads of State of the nine riparian countries. This revitalization, the “Shared Vision Process,” started in 2002 and the NBA has made significant progress in more firmly establishing the NBA since then, including elaboration of the Sustainable Development Action Plan, an $8 billion Investment Program over 20 years, and the Water Charter. The NBA’s current investment program encompasses a broad based mix of large scale transboundary infrastructure investments (Fomi dam in Guinea, Kandadji dam in Niger and Taoussa dam in Mali), small scale infrastructure investments in all 9 countries (rehabilitation and valorization of small dams, development of lowlands, agroforestry); ecosystem protection (regulatory systems, information tools including modeling of low flows, and investments in erosion and siltation control); and institutional capacity building (legal systems and tools, strengthening the NBA hydrological observatory and sub-basin committees; and basin stakeholder mobilization).


Proposed activities:

  • NBA Sustainable Financing Options Analysis Implementation Plan. Developing sustainable and autonomous financing options for the NBA, including exploring the potential for operationalizing and implementing the NBA’s proposed financing model based on Public Private Partnerships (which was endorsed by nine Heads of State in May 2013). This will include an assessment of different potential transaction structures for development of infrastructure project, including options for public or private funding, and public-private partnerships, with a view to recommending the most optimum, bankable structure that takes into consideration prevailing market conditions and priorities of the stakeholders involved.
  • Evidence-based Analysis of Benefits of Cooperation. Evidence-based analysis to illustrate and communicate the economic and financial benefits of cooperation. This includes:
    • Clearly monetizing benefit flows for all infrastructure in the SDAP,
    • Undertaking detailed case study to explore and demonstrate mechanisms for benefit-sharing, using a concrete and tangible test case (e.g. Fomi Dam). Optimizing these flagship transboundary investments (at least $500 million for Fomi dam) is key to unlocking the basin’s potential and achieving climate resilient growth, while sharing benefits with all riparian countries.
    • Disseminate key messages at all levels, through different media and fora.
  • Information Systems for WRM and DRM. Consolidate existing regional water information systems to deliver key services to riparian countries, including more integrated, climate resilient, regional water planning and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and flood and drought forecasting services. This activity will also provide the NBA with institutional building and investment support to help set up a DRM and/or information services unit.
  • Climate Proofing Strategic Action Plan. Strengthen climate resilience of the NBA’s Strategic Action Plan. This activity could entail moving beyond the current basin-level analysis to understanding sub-basin and national level impacts (tributaries, country level) and identifying adaptation strategies including for rain-fed agriculture and micro and large scale storage needs, notably through rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. It also includes strategic messaging and capacity building throughout the basin and could include components that support institutions in their efforts to empower women to build climate resilience at the community level.
  • Investment Forums for Key Infrastructure with Regional Benefits. Build capacity of NBA to convene and host one or two investment forums. This subcomponent will involve investment forums for public and private investors to mobilize financing for the priority infrastructure regionally agreed and endorsed by all nine countries, under the Sustainable Development Action Plan (SDAP).