East Africa’s growing power : challenging Egypt’s hydropolitical position on the Nile

Hanke, Nora (2013-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

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Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This case study on East Africa analyses the impact of changing power relations over the last decade on Egypt’s hydro-hegemony on the Nile River Basin. Covering one-tenth of Africa’s landmass and providing resources for the 340 million people and countless species, the Nile is exemplary of Africa’s geographic, cultural and ecological diversity, as well as its political complexity. Eleven riparian states lie in its basin area and compete for dwindling water resources as demand rises in a highly asymmetrical power relationship between upstream and downstream states. Egypt, although geographically disadvantaged due to its downstream position, has established hydro-hegemony by combining material capabilities, legal and institutional mechanisms, as well as knowledge production. Its relative wealth is contingent upon the supply of Nile water, as it makes up 95% of Egypt’s freshwater. Egypt has legally secured its claim through the 1959 Treaty on the Full Utilisation of the Nile Waters which divides the Nile water flow between Egypt and Sudan. Egypt further established consolidated control by using its downstream position in the World Bank to de facto veto upstream hydro-electric power projects throughout the 1990s. In contrast, the East African Community Partner States only started to lay claim to the water over the last decade due to its history of colonialism, proxy wars and political instability. In 2002, the EAC decided to manage the Lake Victoria Basin jointly. Paired with growing stability and economic growth in the region, this management has attracted Chinese investment in hydro-electric power projects, notably dams, giving East Africa financial independence from both the World Bank and Egypt to build hydro-infrastructure projects. East African states use the influx of Chinese investments to increase their respective defence budgets while Egypt’s military spending, as a share of GDP, has been decreasing over the last decade. Under the Nyerere Doctrine, East African states refuse to honour the 1959 Treaty and have asked for re-negotiation. The first step was taken in 2011, when six upstream states under EAC leadership signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement paving the way for renegotiation, in the face of Egypt’s explicit refusal. Domestic factors in Egypt, coupled with East Africa’s growing self-confidence, are slowly changing the power relations in the Nile basin. Using the London Water Research Group’s Hydro-Hegemony framework in a triangular diachronic single-case study research design, this study traces the processes of counter-hegemony and hydropolitical power shifts. Understanding these political processes is the first step towards the sustainable distribution of the Nile water resources on the basin level.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie gevallestudie oor Oos-Afrika ontleed die impak van veranderende magsverhoudinge op Egipte se beheer oor die loop van die Nylwater gedurende die laaste dekade. Die Nyl, wat vloei oor een tiende van die landmassa van Afrika en lewensmiddele verskaf aan die 340 miljoen mense en ontelbare spesies wat daar ´n bestaan voer, dien as voorbeeld vir Afrika se geografiese, kulturele en ekologiese diversiteit sowel as die politieke kompleksiteit daarvan. Elf oewerstate lê in die Nylopvanggebied en wedywer vir waterbronne wat afneem, terwyl die aanvraag styg in ‘n hoogs asimmetriese magsverhouding tussen die lande wat stroomop en stroomaf geleë is. Alhoewel Egipte geografies benadeel is deur stroomaf geleë te wees, het die land hidrohegemonie verkry deur middel van sy materiële vermoëns, wets- en institutêre meganismes, en kennisproduksie. Die relatiewe rykdom van Egipte is afhanklik van die beskikbaarheid van Nylwater, wat 95% van die land se varswater verskaf. Egipte het sy aanspraak daarop wetlik vasgelê deur middel van die 1959 Verdrag oor die Volle Gebruik van die Nylwater, wat die Nyl se vloei verdeel tussen Egipte en die Soedan. Gedurende die 1990s het die land sy beheer verder versterk deur sy stroomafposisie by die Wêreldbank te gebruik om hidroelktriesekragprojekte stroomop de facto te veto. As gevolg van ‘n geskiedenis van kolonialisme en politieke onrus, het die lidstate van die Oos-Afrikaanse Gemeenskap (OAG) egter eers gedurende die laaste dekade begin om die Nylwater te eis. In 2002 het die OAG besluit om die Victoriameer-opvanggebied gesamentlik te beheer. Hierdie beheer, saam met toenemende bestendigheid en ekonomiese groei in die gebied, het aanleiding gegee tot Chinese beleggings in hidroelektriesekragprojekte, veral damme, sodat Oos-Afrika finansiële onafhanklikheid verkry het van beide die Wêreldbank en Egipte om sy eie hidro-infrastuktuurprojekte te bou. Terwyl die Oos-Afrikaanse lande die invloei van Chinese beleggings gebruik om hulle onderskeie verdedigingsbegrotings te vergroot, het Egipte se militêre uitgawes afgeneem as ‘n deel van die BBP oor die laaste dekade. Die Oos-Afrikaanse lande beroep hulle op die Nyerere Dokrine deur te weier om die 1959 Verdrag na te kom, en het versoek dat dit heronderhandel word. Die eerste treë is in 2011, geneem toe ses stroomoplande onder die leierskap van die OAG die Koöperatiewe Raamwerk Verdrag onderteken het, wat die pad voorberei vir heronderhandeling ten spyte van Egipte se onomwonde weiering daartoe.

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