Harnessing the Nile’s potential through private finance


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Photo: Jorge Láscar | Flickr Creative Commons

The potential economic benefit from the cooperative use of the Nile’s water is estimated to be worth well over $11 billion—from irrigation and hydropower generation alone. But being able to harness those benefits is a far reach; the Nile Basin—a vital source of drinking water, irrigation, hydropower and transport—has a growing need for infrastructure investments to attain the full potential of this resource. Many of these infrastructure investments need to be coordinated between the basin’s 11 countries to ensure they are creating mutual benefits and are not causing harm to neighboring countries.

The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program - Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU), one of the Nile Basin Initiative’s two investment programs, plays a prominent role in the region’s development. NELSAP supports poverty alleviation, economic growth, and the reversal of environmental degradation in the sub-region through cooperative development and water management. Between 2005 and 2015, we mobilized $90 million of cumulative finance for pre-investment programs (e.g. the Lake Edward and Albert Fisheries Project) and $930 million for investment projects (e.g. the Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project).

While we have experience in attracting and facilitating public financing for projects, we have not attracted much in private financing. With growing demand in the region, we wanted to explore the option of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to take advantage of private sector technology and innovation as well as to supplement limited public-sector resources.

To better understand the projects that would be attractive to the private sector and how to better prepare the projects for PPP structuring, we approached the World Bank Group for support to develop PPP options and mobilize private investments.

In 2016, the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) assisted us in reviewing NELSAP’s pipeline of projects and advancing the projects that could be implemented as PPPs. While we developed a short list of 15 projects to be considered for PPP structuring, PPIAF provided a pipeline screening methodology.

Once the screening methodology was ready, NELSAP’s 10 member countries met in Arusha, Tanzania, in May 2017 to screen the short list, which included a mix of hydropower, inland waterway, and irrigation projects.

Applying the screening methodology resulted in great insights, including which projects offered the best prospects for development as a PPP in the short-term and what would need to be changed in order to develop others as PPPs  in the medium or long-term.

In all, learning about PPP screening helped us analyze various facets of each project. From 15 projects, we identified two—the Kakono and Nsongezi Hydropower projects—that were most ready to move forward as PPPs, and the Nsongezi project is now undergoing advanced analysis and planning.

The proposed 39 megawatts Nsongezi “micro” hydropower project would be located on the Kagera River along Uganda's border with Tanzania and help ease power problems and improve livelihoods of local citizens.

The PPP screening also served to raise the capacity of our member countries, who can now utilize this methodology for a variety of development projects at the national and regional levels.

With limited concessional financing available, involving private finance is critical.  Learning to prepare projects in ways that make them suitable for PPP structuring has brought us closer to making these projects a reality—and that brings us closer to our goals of poverty alleviation through economic growth and water security. 

An issue brief was developed on the PPP screening process for NELSAP in collaboration between PPIAF and the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa Trust Fund (CIWA) to aid other organizations that may be interested in screening their investment project portfolios for PPP opportunities.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Bank Group, its Board of Executive Directors, staff or the governments it represents. The World Bank Group does not guarantee the accuracy of the data, findings, or analysis in this post.


Arsène Aimé H. Mukubwa

Water Resources Engineer, Nile Basin Initiative / NELSAP CU

Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D
March 13, 2018

The Nile basin countries and all other countries , that the Nile runs on it's land share the Nile water
Law enforcement should organize the relationship among all countries benefiting from the Nile water.
Projects on the Nile should be stablished and organized for the common benefit of all these African countries not for one or two countries and neglecting the needs of other countries .
Projects on the Nile such as Dams or any other infrastructure settings can help the whole African
continent , not only the ones that have spots on the Nile , specially in the field of transportations , irrigation , drinking water ,and also generating electricity.
Private sectors with the help of the World Bank can participate positively on the projects on the Nile.
Yours Very Respectfully,
Dr. Mohamed Taher Abdelrazik Hamada, Ph.D

Francois Bergere, PPIAF
March 13, 2018

A very good illustration of how Technical assistance for PPPs can be rolled out within a regional cooperation program, with tangible results. This activity has helped NELSAP countries better understand the benefits and the limits of a PPP approach, and more broadly, through the screening methodology applied, what makes a project bankable and attracts Private sector interest on a mutually beneficial, sustainable way. PPIAF stands ready to consider follow up to further develop this approach in the region.

Nufi Barnabas Yohanna
April 07, 2018

This PPP structuring experience, apart from the infrastructural deficit remediation, has further foster a form of international cooperation amongst the countries concerned. Harnessing common heritage for public good through PPP or even traditional procurement process has a great impact on peace and regional security. An injury to one nation will be same to the other.
In a federal set up like Nigeria, there's need for the states to borrow a leaf from the NELSAP experience most especially in the construction of roads connecting them. States can jointly initiate the construction of important roads connecting them for ease of movement of goods and services through a robust PPP arrangement subject to their limited constitutional powers.
I am really interested in how a unified PPP framework was packaged for different countries with possible difference in legal and public policy management tradition.