Moderated by Dr. Albert Butare, former Minister for Water and Energy of the Republic of Rwanda, the session brought together policy makers and practitioners from the African continent to discuss the specific relevance of the water-food and energy nexus in the African context.
Bai-Mass Taal, Executive Secretary of AMCOW and host of the Africa Water Week highlighted the need for creating linkages between the three sectors, particularly by overcoming the disconnect between the relevant sector ministries, highlighting his own experience as Minister for Water Resources in the Gambia. He welcomed the Nexus as an important process which had been started at the Bonn conference and needs to be continued by committed people at all levels in order to effect change and profound growth impulses for the African continent.
Dr. Abu-Zeid, former Egyptian Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation and current member of the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation illustrated the range of issues relevant for the nexus by highlighting the importance of waste water management, when considering the water-food-energy nexus. He also advocated that now after the nexus has been well-established at the international level, there is a need to focus on country-level processes, much analogous to the South African conference held in April 2012. Dr. Abu-Zeid also stressed that many dimensions of the Nexus that we encounter in national contexts have not yet been sufficiently explored. He alluded to the competition between biofuels and food production and called for a substantive change in the production of energy plants. In addition, he outlined the implications of progressing desalination, particularly in order to assure water supply for growing cities in the MENA region and the intricate balance with regards to energy usage.
The more encompassing policy statements were supplemented by practitioners' statements by two representatives from river basin organizations.
Dr Canisius Kanagire, Ecexutive Secretary of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission under the East African Community highlighted the relevance of the Nexus concepts for practitioners, since implementation of water policies currently is very sector-focussed. Whether dams are built for energy generation or water needs to be available for fish production, there issues are not really integrated and harnessed in order to achieve a sustainable environment. Dr. Kanangire furthermore advocated that sectoral integration should be realized from the planning to the implementation phase. To this purpose the nexus has been taken up in the strategic paper, which defines the responsibilities of the Lake Victoria Basin Organization. He also highlighted a further dimension of water as a curse, currently encountered in the region, as in the rainy season, water is often destroying food sources. In the future, main efforts of the LVBC will be focused on infrastructure development targeted at 'harnessing water to make sure enough food is produced in order to sustain regional needs'. IWRM is one approach, which however also needs to take into consideration the issue of climate change.
Major General Collins Ihekire, Executive Secretary of the Niger Basin Authority used the opportunity to highlight the on-going initiatives in the context of the Mekong2Rio conference, which sought to showcase the relevance of the nexus for transboundary basins. He then proceeded to present activities in the Niger Basin under the Sustainable Development Action Plan. One of the actions is targeted at improving river flow in order to improve food security in the Niger basin. He also introduced the principle of benefit-sharing as a key approach for addressing the nexus challenge.