Seleshi Bekele, the Ethiopian minister for Water, has replaced his Ugandan counterpart Sam Cheptoris as chairman of the Nile Basin Council of Ministers (Nile-COM).
Bekele, chosen last Thursday, will hold the position until October 2018. Ethiopia takes over leadership at a time when the 10-member-country Nile Basin Initiative is grappling with challenges such as poverty, food insecurity and climate change.
Population explosion is another challenge. The basin is now home to about 20 percent (257 million) of Africa’s total population.
According to Cheptoris, funding gaps brought on by failure of some member countries to pay their financial commitments was one of the biggest challenges during his tenure as Nile-COM chairperson.
He described his term as “extremely challenging” since the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) couldn’t effectively perform its functions due to the funding gaps.
“We have a challenge of countries failing to make their contributions to NBI. Only three [Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan] are fulfilling their financial obligations. The rest of the countries are lagging behind and they owe NBI up to $5million. It’s a lot of money and unless these pe ople are prepared to sacrifice for NBI, the initiative’s future may not be so bright,” Cheptoris told The Observer on the sidelines of the recently concluded 25th Nile--COM meeting held in Entebbe.
DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia are fully participating in NBI activities but not Egypt.
The North African country hasn’t yet ratified the Cooperate Framework Agreement (CFA), claiming it needs sections of the paper overhauled or updated.