Africa’s Water Ministers Meet in Cairo to Discuss Water Challenges

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Cairo, Egypt | May 14, 2012

Twenty-four African water ministers, in addition to various ambassadors and representatives of African states, met in Cairo on Monday, May 14, for the four-day "Water for Growth in Africa" conference held under the auspices of Egypt's Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri.

In his opening statement, Al-Ganzouri warned that rich western countries have looted Africa's resources in the past, and they were attempting to the same by sowing strife between African states by creating economic and political issues like Nile water shares, dam constructions, etc.

SOUNDBITE 1 (English) – Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri:
"Rich countries used us, used our human resources, natural resources, and forgot about African countries for almost two or three decades; the 70s, 80s and 90s. And they tried to come back to use us again, our resources, by different ways, to try to find a conflict between different countries within Africa."

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia recently formed a 10-member committee that includes four international experts to study Ethiopia's current building of the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam project. The dam is expected to affect the water shares of Egypt and Sudan.

The commission will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, May 15, to discuss the consequences of dam construction, and its effects on other Nile Basin states, particularly Egypt and Sudan.

SOUNDBITE 2 (Arabic) – Egyptian Water Minister Hesham Kandil:
"Our brothers in the Nile Basin countries reaffirm time and again that they do not want to harm Egypt, and do not want to reduce Egypt's water share by a single water drop. However, there is a disagreement in the way of cooperation. Tomorrow, our experts in the sector of Nile water will meet their counterparts in Ethiopia and Sudan to discuss the issue of the Renaissance Dam in the attendance of four international experts."

SOUNDBITE 3 (Arabic) – Sudanese Water Minister Saif-Eddin Hamad Abdulla:
"We formed a commission of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia; the 10-member commission consists of two members from each country besides four international experts specializing in dam safety, in the economic, social and environmental aspects of dam construction and in hydraulics. In the middle of this month (May), they will hold the first meeting gathering all the commission members in Addis Ababa."

For his part, Ethiopia's Ambassador to Egypt reaffirmed his country's eagerness not to harm Egypt's share of Nile water and that the bilateral relations between the two countries are improving after the ousting of the prior Egyptian regime.

SOUNDBITE 4 (Arabic) – Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Mahmoud Dirir:
"There are no problems between Egypt and Ethiopia. We witness cooperation among Nile Basin countries in general and between Ethiopia and Egypt in particular in this stage, the stage following January 25 Revolution."

Egypt’s claim to Nile water is based on agreements made during the first half of the 20th century. The 1929 agreement between Egypt and Great Britain on behalf of Britain's colonies gave Egypt the right to most of the 84 billion cubic meters of water that reaches the downstream countries annually.

As part of the conference activities, which marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW), a group of children performed a short show on stage emphasizing the significance of each Nile water drop.

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