The Socioeconomic Rationale for Cooperation in Transboundary Basins in Africa

April 30, 2014

A critical challenge in improving a broader understanding of international river basins is the rationale for cooperation vis a vis unilateral development. Water professionals often take this for granted, but the political establishment, policy makers directing development initiatives, and the general public do not fully grasp the rationale.

The aim of this activity is to solidify the evidence base on the link between cooperation in trans-boundary basins and equitable growth in Africa. The activity involves strategic analysis and knowledge products that strengthen empirical knowledge on socio-economic rationale for cooperation and its dissemination among key stakeholders. In order to outline a rationale in a convincing manner, there is a need to: (i) evaluate the magnitude of both the benefits of cooperation and the costs of inaction, and (ii) provide a methodological framework for conducting such analysis at a basin scale. Assessing the benefits and costs of cooperation will involve examining how cooperative investments and institutions (e.g., storage development, watershed management, flood management,  hydromet systems, formulating and adopting basin treaties/agreements, etc.) and improved operations of water infrastructure could provide trans-boundary benefits. The analysis will also examine how lack of cooperation could result in foregone benefits, especially for the poor and vulnerable basin populations.

The proposed activity would have two broad and interrelated sub-tasks.

Review of past and on-going empirical studies and evidences

This task draws on available data and studies to produce the economic evidence for cooperation. The analysis focuses on how cooperation in trans-boundary basins could enhance cooperation and productivity in various water-related sectors. It also focuses on how cooperation in transboundary water management and development contributes towards the goal of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. It conducts a careful review of literature on the existing knowledge regarding the linkages between cooperative water resources development and management and basin wide economic growth, poverty, and shared prosperity, if available. The aim is to distill relevant policy lessons and evidences for use by stakeholders in cooperation dialogue and decision making. The expected output is a policy brief targeting specifically finance ministers, planners and donors among possible others.

Empirical analysis of case study basins in Sub-Saharan Africa

The two basis for case study represent contrasting levels cooperation and basin development. The proposed basins are the Nile river basin, with limited cooperation amidst a highly volatile political environment, and the Senegal river basin, with a relatively high level of cooperation and development.