Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA)

The Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program assists riparian governments in Sub-Saharan Africa in unlocking the potential for sustainable, climate-resilient growth by addressing constraints to cooperative water resources management and development.


Currently only 58 percent of Africans have access to safe drinking water, less than 5 percent of cultivated land is irrigated, and only 10 percent of hydroelectricity potential is utilized. Compounding those needs, much of Africa is highly vulnerable and under-prepared to cope with the impacts of climate change. By 2020, a projected 75 to 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress.

Tapping into Africa’s tremendous water resources has the potential to significantly strengthen the region’s water security, improve livelihoods, and fuel economic growth. Improved water management can make a critical contribution to achieving food security, reducing vulnerability to climate change, improving human health and sanitation, and increasing energy generation and industrial expansion.

With 90 percent of water in Africa falling within 63 international river basin catchments crossed by multiple borders, water management in the region is inherently an international and cooperative endeavor.

With Africa’s growing population and industries, demand for water increases, further complicating the political, institutional, economic, and financial challenges that countries face as they manage and develop their transboundary rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Managing water-related hazards and risks – such as flood and drought – is a central challenge in strengthening African resilience to climate change. The urgency to facilitate cooperation around shared waters in Africa increases as competition for the resource grows and climate change intensifies hydrological variability and unpredictability.

Transboundary management presents both opportunities and challenges – countries working together can often reap greater benefits than working alone, but historical tensions, issues of sovereignty, and difficulty in determining reasonable and equitable use must all be overcome.

CIWA as a Response

CIWA funds a variety of organizations – governments, river basin organizations, regional economic communities, civil society organizations, and African regional or national organizations – to address the constraints of cooperative transboundary water management. Managed by the World Bank, CIWA is uniquely poised to provide neutral third-party facilitation, technical support, and critical analysis to better understand transboundary water issues and inform decisions.

CIWA supported activities – which cut across sectors including energy, agriculture, transportation, social issues, and the environment – assist the World Bank’s clients to utilize transboundary resources productively and equitably, protecting people and property from water-related shocks, and ensuring the sustainability of the resource base.

Read more about how CIWA strengthens cooperative water resources management and development (pdf).

CIWA provides three types of support: 1) sustained engagement, 2) short-term opportunistic engagement, and 3) knowledge generation and management.

Sustained Engagement Projects

CIWA provides support to four priority basins: Niger, Nile, Volta, and Zambezi. Through long-term, sustained engagement with priority basins, CIWA enables steady progress towards cooperation by strengthening foundational elements such as data, agreements, institutions, and investment and operation plans.

  • Niger Basin – CIWA support in the Niger Basin builds the technical, legal, and institutional capacity to plan and implement large scale infrastructure and climate resilience investments.
  • Nile Basin – CIWA support in the Nile builds on more than a decade of support by the Nile Basin Trust Fund (NBTF). With CIWA’s support, Nile countries have strengthened their knowledge base and applied jointly-developed systems for reducing disaster risk and development planning; advanced dialogue on cooperative management and development; grown a network of water resources professionals; and advanced an investment portfolio that encourages strategic cooperation between riparian’s and responds to sustainable development needs in the basin, including involvement of stakeholders and civil society organizations.
  • Volta Basin – In the Volta Basin, CIWA supports institutional strengthening and capacity building of the Volta Basin Authority (VBA) primarily focusing on the Basin’s water charter and communication tools, and facilitation of on the ground investments in watershed management.
  • Zambezi Basin – In the Zambezi Basin, CIWA support assists the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) and the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) to develop robust water information systems, advance prioritized joint infrastructure, and create a Master Plan which prioritizes regionally-relevant investments that build climate resilience and reduce poverty.

Opportunistic Engagement Projects

Shorter-term, opportunistic CIWA engagements explore potentially high-impact opportunities for propelling cooperation in areas outside CIWA’s priority basins through analytical work, capacity building, or technical assistance.

  • Groundwater Cooperation - The CIWA program is working to help regional bodies in Africa tackle groundwater issues because, much like rivers and lakes, underground aquifers cross national borders. This is important because of the inter-connectivity between water and population movement, and links between surface water and water underground. 
  • Lesotho Highlands - Botswana Water Transfer – The transfer study will investigate potentially transformative development options for the transfer of water from the Lesotho Highlands to Botswana. The study will explore additional transfer options from the Lesotho Highlands and the development of additional, sustainable revenue streams based on renewable water resources for Lesotho, one of the least developed countries in southern Africa. This would help Botswana make a more informed decision with respect to securing water supplies and would consolidate Lesotho’s position as the water tower of southern Africa.
  • Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States – CIWA support for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aims to develop the newly established SADC Groundwater Management Institute into a regionally recognized center of excellence, strengthen transboundary and national institutions to improve regional cooperation, and build capacity for sustainable transboundary and national groundwater management in the ministries and departments responsible for groundwater in SADC member states.
  • Okavango Multi-Sector Investment Opportunities Analysis (MSIOA) – The objective of the Okavango MSIOA is to undertake a multi-sector analysis of proposed investment options in the Cubango-Okavango River Basin and evaluate options to meet the development needs of the riparian countries in such a manner as to safeguard the ecological integrity of the basin, particularly the Okavango Delta, a biodiversity-rich wetland ecosystem with significant social, economic, and ecological value.
  • Water Resources Management in West Africa - (ECOWAS) – West Africa countries are motivated to support an integrated water resources management approach to water governance and joint management. The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Water Resources Coordinating Center is advancing policy and organizational structures on this front. Through a set of technical assistance activities, CIWA support will strengthen the ability of ECOWAS to facilitate, coordinate, and catalyze transboundary water resources management and development in support of food, energy security, and climate-resilient growth in West Africa.

Knowledge Management and Generation

Knowledge management activities strengthen the evidence base for and develop tools that facilitate cooperative development and management of international waters.

  • Transboundary Cooperation for Climate Resilience - Building resilience to climate change requires effective water management systems, comprising strong information systems, institutions, and infrastructure at local, national, and regional levels. This report documents the relationships between climate change, economic livelihood, and water management across Sub-Saharan Africa to draw attention to the critical role of transboundary water cooperation, and outlines the vital role of cooperation. 
  • Strategic Overview of International Waters in Africa – This study provides a comprehensive compilation of indicators describing the continent’s transboundary surface waters, including the socioeconomic, geopolitical, and biophysical aspect of transboundary basins. The analytical report and accompanying database of indicators aim to fill a critical gap in the water resources knowledge base and serve as a comprehensive compilation of information that provides sufficient context about those areas of uncertainty that collectively affect the challenges and opportunities in cooperative water investment.
  • Economic Rational for Cooperation – A review of the challenges to transboundary water cooperation, pathways for overcoming those challenges, and the role of economics in facilitating the discovery of those pathways.
  • Political Economy Analysis – The guidance note developed under this project provides practical advice to help water resource management specialists carry out strong, operationally relevant analysis that contributes to new ways of thinking and working, and ultimately to achieving better results.
  • Improving Public Access to Basin Data – This project addresses the hurdles faced by governments and development professionals regarding their need for access and usability of public data. The resulting Spatial Agent App puts the globe in the user’s hand by enabling easy access to a burgeoning group of public domain multi-sectoral datasets at the global, regional and national levels.

Annual reports

  • CIWA Annual Report 2017 - The 2017 annual report showcases the results achieved in FY2017.
  • CIWA Annual Report 2016 - The 2016 annual report showcases the results achieved in FY2016, including influencing $9.9 billion dollars in investment financing – investments projected to potentially benefit 47.8 million people. The report also highlights the breadth of CIWA activities, which include support for analytical work to create a shared understanding and facilitate cooperative development and management of international waters.
  • CIWA Annual Report 2015  - The report highlights the substantial progress in FY15 toward strengthening cooperative management and development of transboundary waters in Sub-Saharan Africa for climate-resilient growth. CIWA’s work in seven basins influenced US$8.9 billion in investment financing projected to potentially benefit 48.6 million people.
  • CIWA Annual Report 2014 - The 2014 Annual Report showcases the breadth of CIWA’s portfolio, describing the program’s engagements across the continent in East, West and Southern Africa primarily in the Nile, Niger, Volta, and Zambezi basins. Important catalytic activities, including the Political Economy of Cooperation, a Multi-Sector Opportunities Analysis in the Okavango Basin and efforts to make important water and climate information more accessible through the Spatial Agent app are also featured.

Africa-wide Analysis

  • Climate Resilience in Africa: The Role of Cooperation around Transboundary Waters - This report examines the evidence for the link between cross-border cooperation and climate resilience from transboundary basins in Africa. The framework helps development planners and practitioners think through and make the case for implementing certain actions at the regional level in conjunction to actions taken at the national level.
  • Political Economy Analysis for Transboundary Water Resources Management in Africa – The guidance note provides practical advice to help water resource management specialists carry out strong, operationally relevant analysis that contributes to new ways of thinking and working, and ultimately to achieving better results. See the full report (PDF).
  • Economic Rationale for Cooperation in International Waters in Africa – This paper provides a review of the challenges to transboundary water cooperation, pathways for overcoming those challenges, and the role of economics in facilitating the discovery of those pathways. See the full report (PDF).

Basin Reports and Plans

Opportunities for Impact: The CIWA Partnership Framework

The CIWA Partnership Framework summarizes the current state of transboundary water management and development in Africa, the objectives and methods of the CIWA program, and opportunities for partnership.  Water management and development play essential roles in development, underpinning the means to lift people out of poverty and reduce vulnerability to climate change. By 2020, the CIWA program aims to influence US$10 billion in investment financing for cooperative management and development of transboundary waters across Sub-Saharan Africa, targeting benefits for 50 million people.

Implementation Partners

Development Partners

The CIWA program represents a partnership between the World Bank and the governments of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the European Union. Since its inception, development partners have entrusted CIWA with over $72 million in pledges and contributions for fulfilling its mandate. To expand its impact in response to the substantial expressed demand from continental partners, CIWA is planning to deepen its program of support and welcomes interested development partners.

The CIWA Partnership Framework provides development partners with an overview of the CIWA program for consideration of financial support. It is complementary to the CIWA Operational Guidelines that provides more specific information on program procedures and the CIWA Strategic Framework that provides more information on the how CIWA plans to deliver results.

Annual report

CIWA Annual Report 2017

The 2017 annual report showcases the results achieved in FY2017.


Cooperation in International Waters in Africa

The Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program assists riparian governments in Sub-Saharan Africa in unlocking the potential for sustainable, climateresilient growth by addressing constraints to cooperative water resources management and development.


Dawit Tadesse