Saturday, June 22, 2024

Botswana, Angola, Namibia must align strategies to avoid water disputes

Country Director for Angola National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, Kerllen Costa, asserts that Botswana, Angola, and Namibia must synchronise strategies to avoid conflicts like the water war between Egypt and Ethiopia.

Speaking to Aloysius Uche Ordu, a senior fellow and director of the Africa Growth Initiative in the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development program, Costa made the observation that the three riparian states would experience water security under an integrated water model.

“You can clearly see that water is an issue for Botswana. It’s mostly a desert. You can see that water is of great importance for Namibia. Angola doesn’t have such problems. And if Angola decides to use its resources without really evaluating the impacts downstream, those countries will really be very negatively affected,” says Costa.

The Okavango Delta is the result of an interconnected river system that originates from the highlands in Angola, passes through Namibia, to the Delta in Botswana. Costa notes that the Okavango Delta headwaters must be protected at all costs since they support thousands of people in Botswana, Angola and Namibia through tourism, farming and fishing.

“And not protecting the headwaters we’re putting at risk a whole complexity of systems that depend on those headwaters. So it only makes sense for us to contribute for official and concerted protection of the headwaters,” said Costa while speaking on a Foresight Africa podcast.

In order to guarantee long-term, sustainable protection for the greater Okavango Watershed, the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project has been conducting surveys, gathering scientific data on the river system, and collaborating with local communities, non-governmental organisations, and the governments of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana.

Costa stated that with Angola emerging from a decades-long civil conflict, the country is now opening up and is keen to harness its abundant natural resources for economic growth. “That poses a lot of complexities and dangers for the countries downstream. So there is a very big importance for all these countries to actually align in terms of strategy,” he said.

Additionally, Costa noted that Angola is in a completely different stage of development than Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia. Due to the civil war, he claimed, Angola was unable to develop much, whereas other nations had seen tourism, conservation, and economic growth.

“And I think that is where the biggest problem really lies, because those countries are in a different existential phase and they’re thinking of other things, while Angola is thinking development dams, industrial agriculture. And they should actually look at examples elsewhere in Africa. You have the case of Egypt and Ethiopia with that dam where no synchronization can result really in exacerbation of climatic effects, access to natural resources. And we have the opportunity to look at those examples and actually synchronise our strategy,” he says.

Costa also said that Angola has established a body to oversee investments in the Okavango basin, and that an integrated strategy among these countries “can actually teach a very important lesson to the rest of the world in terms of sharing of resources.”

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