Water Wars

The explosive rise of population growth in Africa combined with climate change causes strain between nations that has the potential to result in conflict, frequently referred to as ‘Water Wars’. While countries are working to resolve water tensions through negotiation, there is always a serious risk of an escalation in aggression over water accessibility.

Africa’s vulnerability to potential water-induced conflict can be identified into four regions: the Nile, Niger, Zambezi and Volta basins.

Running through EgyptEthiopia, and Sudan, the Nile River has the potential to spark conflict and unrest.

In the Niger region, the river basin extends from Guinea through Mali and down to Nigeria.

Especially for Mali – one of the world’s poorest countries – the river is vital for food, water and transportation, and its over-usage is contributing to an increasingly polluted and unusable water source.

In southern Africa, the Zambezi river basin is one of the world’s most over-used river systems with neighbouring countries –  Zambia and Zimbabwe  -competing fiercely over it.

Finally, Ghana, located in the Volta river basin, is dependent on the Akosombo Dam for its hydroelectric output, but is plagued by regular droughts which effects production and impedes economic growth. This situation could potentially contribute to regional instability.

It is feared by UNECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) that if current rates of consumption paired with climatic stress continue, levels of water scarcity in Africa could reach dangerously high levels by 2025 ‘triggering’ armed conflict.

War and terrorism relating to water is most susceptible to the Nile in Egypt, Sudan, and nations further south, where reports have warned that upstream nations will limit access to water for political reasons, and that terrorists may target water related infrastructures, such as reservoirs and dams.