Power balance linked to water access

Foreign investments in Africa lead to new risks but also opportunities


With the inflow of especially foreign countries as land investors in transboundary water basins there is an obvious risk that the power balance between those countries sharing access to the water is changed, says NAI researcher Mats Hårsmar.  He is one of the authors of a new publication from SIWI (Stockholm international Water Institute) titled 'Land Acquisitions: How will they Impact Transboundary Waters?'. Read the report here (pdf opens in new window).

How is water related to land investments?
The recent surge in international and national investments in agricultural lands in Africa is generally also investments in water. Agriculture needs water, and many of these investments are done in transboundary water basins. However, access to water is, as far as we know, never included in the contracts. The linkages between land and water have not been studied and discussed enough. This publication aims to initiate such discussions.

Can the growing demand for water resources increase the risk for conflicts in the region?
With the inflow of especially foreign countries as land investors in transboundary water basins, such as the Nile delta, there is an obvious risk that the power balance between those countries sharing access to the water, the “riparians”, is changed. This might increase the risk for conflict, but it might also increase the opportunities for better sharing of water, water related resources, and hence for collaboration. The outcome depends on what power shifts that take place.

We need to study this further to understand the dynamics better. What is clear is that the riparians place great importance in having access to water from the shared river basin.

What can be done to avoid conflicts?
Negotiated agreements on how to share the water resources benefit from as wide collaboration over productive resources as possible.

For instance, extensive trade relations would be beneficial in this sense. Relevant information and knowledge about what is happening to the water is one important element in this.

 

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