CIWA in the Zambezi Basin

April 30, 2014


The Zambezi River Basin (ZRB) is shared by eight countries: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In addition to meeting the basic needs of more than 30 million people and playing a central role in the riparian economies, the river sustains a rich and diverse natural environment. 

The ZRB has been the subject of a long history of sustained efforts to foster cooperative development. While there has been little investment in the ZRB over the last 30 years, sustained economic growth above 6 percent in many of the riparian states is providing new opportunities and increasing development pressure on the basin’s resources. More than US$16 billion worth of investments have been identified at the pre-feasibility or feasibility stage of preparation, and the combined GDP among the ZRB riparian states is estimated at over US$100 billion. Despite the increasing prosperity in the region, poverty is persistent across the basin and income inequality in some states is among the highest in the world. Reflecting the dual nature of the regional economy, new investments in large infrastructure co-exist alongside a parallel subsistence economy that is reliant upon environmental services provided by the river. The challenge in the ZRB is to promote cooperative development and management of international waters in a way that drives sustainable economic growth and improves the livelihoods of the populations that critically depend on the sustainable use and management of shared waters.

The CIWA Zambezi River Basin Program has been envisaged as a long-term engagement consisting of a series of programs, each with different projects at various levels (at the country level, among sub-regional clusters, across the basin) and across different sectors within the basin. The program will utilize a mix of instruments, including continuing dialogue, analytical work and technical assistance, investment preparation, and infrastructure financing. The first phase of the program has two recipient partners: the ZAMCOM Secretariat and the ZRA.




1. Zambezi River Basin Management Project

Project Objective:  To strengthen the Zambezi Watercourse Commission’s role in promoting cooperative management and development in the Zambezi River Basin through institutional strengthening, improved information sharing and decision support, and strategic planning.

Partner: ZAMCOM Secretariat. ZAMCOM was established to promote the equitable and reasonable utilization of the water resources of the Zambezi Watercourse, as well as the efficient management and sustainable development thereof. The Agreement was signed on July 13, 2004 by seven of the eight riparian states— Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zimbabwe—and came into force on June 26, 2011 after six of the eight riparian countries completed their ratification processes. Zambia acceded to the agreement in July, 2013 while Malawi, who signed on July 13, 2004, has not yet ratified. The riparian states established an Interim ZAMCOM Secretariat (IZS) in May 2011. The IZS is hosted by the Government of Botswana in Gaborone and is working with the riparian states to operationalize the ZAMCOM Agreement and ZAMCOM Work Plan.

Key Expected Results:

  • Permanent ZAMCOM Secretariat legally established with functions defined in the ZAMCOM Agreement
  • Plan for financial sustainability based on member state contributions
  • Basin-wide Master Plan developed
  • Flood-forecasting and early warning system developed
  • Zambezi Water Information System enhanced


2. Zambezi River Basin Development Project

Project Objective:  To advance preparation of the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Scheme and strengthen cooperative development within the Zambezi River Basin.

Partner: Zambezi River Authority (ZRA). The ZRA was established in 1987 through legislation that established joint ownership by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe in equal proportions. The ZRA is governed by a Council of Ministers consisting of four members, including the Ministers holding portfolios of energy and finance in each country. The primary functions of the Authority are to operate, monitor, and maintain the Kariba Complex; identify, and at the approval of the council, construct, operate, monitor, and maintain any other dams on the Zambezi River; liaise with the National Electricity Undertakings in activities that affect the generation and transmission of electricity; and make recommendations to the Council to ensure the effective and efficient use of the waters and other resources of the Zambezi River.

Key Expected Results:

  • Updated feasibility study for the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Scheme
  • Environmental and Social Assessment for the Batoka Gorge Scheme
  • Improved safety of the existing Kariba hydropower complex with completion of dam break analysis
  • Legal review of governance and organizational oversight completed
  • Options developed for future role of ZRA in the Zambezi basin