The Nile – the world’s longest river – runs through 10 countries, four of which are "water scarce." The Nile Basin covers an area of around 3 million km2, or nearly 10% of the landmass of the African continent, and is home to 160 million people. Water experts believe there is not enough water in the river to meet the various irrigation goals of the Nile basin nations. Adding to potential water stress, many large hydropower dams are being built or considered, including Merowe and Kajbar dams in Sudan; Tekeze, Grand Renaissance , Baro 1, Baro 2, Karadobi, and Tana Beles dams in Ethiopia; and Bujagali and Karuma dams in Uganda. All of these competing projects combined with the coming impacts of climate change could send the region’s already over–tapped water resources into crisis, leave economies weaker rather than stronger, and do little to reduce ongoing conflict over the Nile.
The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was established as an inter–governmental organization to address the region’s brewing water conflict, reduce poverty and promote economic integration. The proposed program has the potential to reduce a number of problems in the basin. However, the NBI is expected to rely quite heavily on constructing large–scale irrigation and hydropower dams, an approach that could prove a poor choice for reducing friction in the basin if it follows a "business as usual" line. Civil society from the Nile basin were overlooked during the formation of the NBI, and have worked through a parallel (but scarcely funded) Nile Basin Discourse.