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Teferra Beyene has assumed his responsibility as the Executive Director of the Entebbe based Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Secretariat, as of September, 2012.
Teferra is the sixth Executive Director since NBI was established in 1992, succeeding Dr. Wael Khairy an Egyptian national who has been Executive Director since September 2010.
As the Executive Director, he is responsible for technical and administrative support to the NBI governance, coordination with partner institutions and donor agencies for successful implementation of NBI programs as well as overall supervision of the Secretariat.
Teferra has been working as the Director of Boundary and Trans-boundary Rivers Affairs Directorate in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy and has also been a member of the NBI governance, the Nile Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC) since 2006. The Nile-TAC offers technical support and advice to the Nile-COM on matters related to the management and development of the common Nile Basin water resources.
Teferra has a Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering obtained from the University of Calicut, India and has since pursued a number of specialized postgraduate trainings on technical and legal aspects of water resources development and management in Norway, Japan and UK.
It is a tradition in NBI to rotate the position of Executive Director of the Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat every two years, among Member States in alphabetical order: Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Teferra sat down with Capital’s Groum Abate to talk about the initiative’s work and the regional cooperation scope: Excerpts
Capital: What is the status of the initiative currently?
Teferra Beyene: The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is the only inter-governmental organization dedicated to equitable and sustainable management and development of the shared water resources of the Nile Basin. The NBI Member States are ten, namely: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Eritrea participates as an observer.
The NBI was established on 22 February, 1999 by Ministers responsible for Water Affairs in each Member State. These Ministers comprise the governing body known as the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) supported by the Nile Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC). A Shared Vision Program and a Strategic Action Program were agreed upon to guide Nile cooperation.
Previous cooperation were not as efficient as this one so the officials from these basin countries discussed and started this initiative. So the initiative is doing well now and can be considered as a strong institution.
The shared vision of NBI is to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.
The NBI has also got three centers, namely the Secretariat is based in Entebbe, Uganda and two Subsidiary Action Programs in charge of investments; the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office(ENTRO) based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) based in Kigali, Rwanda.
We are also scaling up studies on the Nile basin to promote the use of the water in an equitable manner. Apart from the water, the region is connecting for sharing power generated from the waters in the region. The initiative is also building up its capacity and is giving trainings to professionals in member countries to efficiently use the water.
All in all, the initiative is the only stage for the basin countries to engage in discussion on how to use the water. The dialogue will help the countries to use the water properly. The Nile belongs to all of us so everyone in the basin will have a say about the river.
Capital: Is Egypt going to join the initiative anytime soon?
Teferra: Sudan is trying to convince Egypt to join the initiative in a much larger scale. It is better to join the initiative to make use of the river efficiently. It is by cooperating that anyone can come to an understanding. Other countries in the basin are also urging Egypt to join the initiative.
However the last decision comes from Egypt and we are expecting Egypt to join the initiative. Egypt has a big stake and refusing to participate in this kind of initiative is not wise.
Capital: How are member countries in regards to ratifying the law on Nile?
Teferra: Every one accepted the law and the countries disagree in one article. We hope this article will be agreed upon in the next meeting. Currently two countries Ethiopia and Rwanda ratified it as a law in their parliament. The law is also in parliament waiting ratification in Burundi and South Sudan. Tanzanian council of Minister’s has also referred the law to parliament for ratification. Ugandan parliament is going to vote on it soon. In Kenya the law is at the cabinet level.
From the 11 countries six should ratify it as law by their parliament. When the six countries adopt it, the initiative will convert to a commission. When the sixth country adopts the law the commission will be formed within sixty days.
Capital: What are the challenges of the initiative?
Teferra: The main challenge of the initiative is funding. We are having difficulty in covering the costs of our day to day activity. However the member countries agreed to increase their contribution for the initiative and by 2017 member countries will fully cover the operational cost of the initiative.