Cooperative Water Governance for Climate Resilience: Are Institutional Arrangements in Southern Africa Fit for Purpose?

Water is a stress multiplier in Africa. Climate change and development decisions manifest in stressed water resources, while poor governance further undermines water security. Many of Africa’s water resources are shared by two or more countries, adding further complexity – not least because of the consequent pressure on states to invest in and govern water resources jointly. The current level of transboundary cooperation is inadequate, with riparian countries often seeing problems rather than opportunities in governing the watercourse as a single unit. Thus there is a tension between obligations regarding international waters and national territorial sovereignty. There is also an increasing need for financed solutions, which include resilient infrastructure, and for greater water benefit increases in accordance with the cumulative impacts of stresses on water resultant from population, climate and development. This further highlights the need for cooperative governance. A measure of the strength of transboundary cooperation is the extent of regional integration. Effective multi-country water resource development relies heavily on strong regional integration, but there is little such integration in Africa. Sharing the benefits derived from shared watercourses through transboundary cooperation is an important outcome of regional integration, but the mechanisms for doing so still need to be adequately understood, defined and measured.