Nepad short-term action plan (stap)

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2.6 Approach to Preparation of STAP for Transboundary Water Resources

2.6.1 The Terms of Reference of the Short Term Action Plan for Transboundary Water Resources has stipulated the following outputs: assessment of existing river basin development conditions, review of existing role of key stakeholders and propose their role in the implementation of the STAP, identification of key principles and modalities of cooperative framework and preparation of strategies for ensuring sustainable management, assessment of the capacity of RECs to mobilize political will and leadership as center of regional integration to facilitate the implementation of the NEPAD water programme, and assessment of the capabilities of River Basin Authorities (RBO) and prepare action plans for strengthening the capacities in the management and development of shared water resources.

2.6.2 Elaboration of the STAP TWR in the selected river/lake basins was started in February 2004, with the objective of preparing a strategic framework including action plans. This was undertaken through the following activities:

  • making assessments of existing conditions including the identification of key issues in each of the selected river basins through document review and visits to the basins;

  • consultations with relevant stakeholders (RECs, RBOs, donors and other stakeholders) with active or potential programmes in the basins) to identify what interventions should be supported by NEPAD STAP, how these should be supported, identification of key players, their roles and capacities;

  • identifying modalities of promoting cooperation/partnership among the key players; and,

  • defining a strategic framework and action plan for the STAP taking into account that a number of the actions would continue into the Medium and Long Term; and,

  • preparation of project briefs for each of the identified action plans.

2.6.3 This document would be used by NEPAD, RECs and RBOs in focusing around a set of actions for the life of the Short Term Action Plan. The STAP framework document would also assist development partners and stakeholders including sector organizations to be informed and make their own contributions in the areas of their interest/competence to strengthen the cooperative arrangements. The experiences and achievements gained in the process of implementing the STAP would create rolling programmes. Intervention in other river basins not currently included in the STAP would benefit from the experience and elaboration of the more inclusive programmes of the MLTSF.


3.1 Introduction and Background

3.1.1 The seven transboundary river/lake basins selected in the present situation assessment are among the largest basins in Africa (see Figure 1, and together hold more than 75% of the total continental water resources. Almost all the rivers have their sources in the humid equatorial rain belt in western and central parts of the continent. Due to extensive coverage of the basins, there are wide variations in climatic zones in each basin ranging from moist tropical climates through semi-arid to desert. The Nile River, the longest river in the world, total length of 6,700 km, rises in the equatorial rainforests in eastern and central Africa, traverses savannah, semi-arid zones and the Sahara Desert and empties its water through an extensive delta on the Mediterranean Sea. Due to variability in climates and rainfall, most major river basins of Africa exhibit tremendous variability in available water resources. The general physical characteristic of the seven river basins are briefly described below and summarized in Table 3.1. For detailed descriptions of conditions in each basin, reference should be made to “River Basin Reports” in Annex 1.

  1. Congo River Basin has a catchment area of 2.94 million km2 making it the largest in Africa and second largest in the world after the Amazon. The Congo River originates in Zambia and is joined by a large number of sizable tributaries on its 4,700 km length before it discharges into the Atlantic Ocean. The average annual rainfall in the basin ranges from 1,200 mm in the north to 2,000 mm in the center. The river’s average annual yield at Kinshasa and Brazzaville is about 1,250 km3 amounting to over 30% of the renewable surface water resources of Africa. The catchment area is shared by nine countries, namely: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic, the Congo, Angola, Cameroon, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia, with 61% of the basin falling in DRC. The river system provides water supply, fishing, transport, irrigated agriculture and hydropower to the basin population which is estimated at 35 to 40 million inhabitants.

  1. Lake Chad Basin: Lake Chad is a shallow (average depth 1.5m) freshwater lake with a total catchment area of 2.372 million km2 covering Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan. The lake area has been fluctuating from a high of 25,000 km2 to a low of 1,500 km2 during the droughts of the 1980s and 1990s, expanding to 19,000 km2 in 2001.The total yield into the lake is estimated at 22 km3 (1984) contributed mainly by the rivers Chari/Logone, the Komadougou-Yobe, the El Beid and Yedseram with the Chari/Logone river system providing 95% of the flows. The Logone and Chari inundate their banks during the rainy season over a wetland area of 90,000 km2 resulting in the evaporation of large amount of water. Average annual rainfall in the lake basin varies from a high of 1500 mm in the south to 100 mm in the north while the evapo-transpiration in the central catchment amounting to 2,000 mm. Ground water is an important resource in the basin. The Lake Chad basin supports more than 20 million people whose livelihood is dependent on a combination of fishing, agriculture and pastoralism, lake water being the source of water supply along the shore.


Source: European Union: EU Water Initiative, “IWRM in Africa”, Working Paper 1, 3 October 2003.

Figure 3.1 International River Basins of Africa

  1. Niger River Basin: is the largest river basin in West Africa covering an area of 1.99 million km2 spanning 10 countries: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. The average annual yield of the river at the Niger-Nigeria border amounts to 36 km3, with as low as 18 km3 (1986). The major tributary is the Benue originating in Chad and joining the Niger River in Lokoja in Nigeria. Up to 31 km3 of water is lost from seepage and evaporation as the river passes through the southern flank of Sahara desert in Mali spreading to a delta area of 30,000 km2 during the flood season. The basin population is estimated at 109.1 million inhabitants.

  1. Senegal River Basin: With a length of 1,050 km, the Senegal River is the second longest river in West Africa, with its 0.48 million km2 basin area covering Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. The river has three main tributaries – the Bafing, the Bakoye, and the Faleme all originating in the Fouta Djallon mountains in Guinea, and together producing 80% of the annual yield estimated at 25 km3 measured at the river outlet. The average annual rainfall in the Senegal River basin ranges from 55mm to 2100mm with a mean value of 550mm. Population in the basin is estimated at 12 million (3% growth rate) with 85% living along the river and earning their living from subsistence agriculture in the upper basin, mixed production systems in the delta and valley (flood recession cropping, livestock raising and fishing), and modern pumped irrigation.

  1. Nile River Basin: The Nile River Basin is the second largest basin in Africa after the Congo River Basin. The total basin area of 2.85 million km2 covers 10 states, namely:- Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The extensive basin size has varied landscapes including high mountains, tropical forests, woodlands, lakes, savannas, wetlands, arid lands, and deserts, and culminates in an enormous delta on the Mediterranean Sea. From its source in the Great Lakes region, the total river length is 6,700 km, making it the longest river in the world. The rainfall over the basin varies considerably, from the equatorial rain belt with average annual rainfall above 2,000 mm to less than 200 mm in the arid region of Egypt. The river’s total annual yield is 84 km3 per year at Aswan Dam; a significant part of this is contributed by its major tributary, the Blue Nile, rising from the Ethiopian highland plateau. The basin includes Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. It is estimated that 160 million people live within the basin, while about twice that number   about 300 million   live within the ten countries that share and depend on Nile waters. The Nile Basin is home to a diversity of culture, history, and economic development.

  1. Zambezi River Basin is the largest basin in Southern Africa and one of the most important and valuable natural resource in the region. Its total area of 1,388,200 km2 covers eight countries (Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). About 42% of the basin is in Zambia, 18% in Angola and 16% in Zimbabwe. About 40 million people live in the basin. The basin is characterised by tremendous rainfall variability (within the countries and across the region), ranging from about 1500 mm at the source in the north-western corner of Zambia to less than 50mm in south-western parts of the region. The variability in rainfall is further reflected in variability in available water resources. The largest tributary, the Kafue River, with a total basin area of about 140,000 km2, lies entirely in Zambia; other tributaries are transboundary. The average annual yield is 230 km3. The basin has two large man-made reservoirs, Lake Kariba and Lake Cahora Bassa, and the third largest freshwater lake in Africa, Lake Malawi, which covers an area of 28,000 km2

  1. Okavango River Basin covers four states in Southern Africa, namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The total basin area is 725,000 km2, with about 46% of the basin area in Botswana, 28% in Angola, 23% in Namibia and about 3% in Zimbabwe. The Okavango, and all its main tributaries, rises in Angola, flows across Caprivi Strip in Namibia and then into Botswana where it ends in the Okavango Delta. It is the largest river system in Southern Africa which does not drain out to sea. The mean annual rainfall in the headwater is about 1200 mm and this decreases southwards to 300 – 400 mm in Namibia and Botswana. All the water reaching Namibia and Botswana is derived from Angola, the upstream basin state. The average annual yield into the delta is estimated at 8 km3. It is estimated that the population in the basin is about 215,000 people.

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