Prosperity for Nile Basin countries is the best way to protect River Nile and other water systems in Africa, President Museveni has said.
The President made the remarks at a plenary session of the first ever Nile Basin Heads of State summit held at State House, Entebbe.
The summit that brings together all countries along the River Nile was attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, South Sudan Vice President Joseph Wani, Burundi’s 2nd Vice President Joseph Butore and Sudan’s Vice President Hasabo Mohammed Abdul Rahman.
Kenya, Rwanda, DR Congo and Tanzania were represented by different ministers.
Addressing the summit, Museveni pointed out five key threats to the River Nile and other rivers.
“The first is the growing population of Africa, the lack of electricity especially in the Tropics, lack of industrialization, reliance on primitive agriculture and destruction of environment upon which the Nile depends,” he said.
“Africa is almost 12 million square miles, which means it is 12 times the size of India or four times the size of China. Yet these countries have been having bigger populations than Africa until recently,” he said.
The problem therefore, he said, is the pre-industrialist and pre-capitalist characteristic of the population.
Alluding to China, Museveni noted that improving the population quality; turning people into scientists, enterpreneurs and consumers, would make the population an asset.
“Some of the countries in the Nile Basin consume as low as 28 Kilowatts per capita, yet USA and Norway consume 12,000 kilowatts per capita and 23,000 kilowatts per capita respectively,” said the President.
Industrialising the Nile Basin would in return resolve the problem of a bulk of the population engaging in primitive agriculture—pushing them into industry and service sectors, the President said.
“In Uganda today, agriculture accommodates 68% of the population, services 24%, ICT 6% and the rest are in public service.”
“As far as agriculture is concerned, much less numbers are needed there to achieve maximum output. Most of the people in agriculture are in disguised unemployment. They end up putting pressure on forests, mountain ranges and wetlands,” he added.
Whereas it is important to focus on the 85 billion cubic meters of the Nile waters, Africa is blessed with other water resources like the 3,000 billion cubic meters of the Congo River and this could be exploited in convergence for Africa’s prosperity.
“My view is that human resource is more important. Japan, China and South Korea do not have a lot of natural resources but have a large human resource and all of them have among the highest GDP in the world,” he said, adding: “Have we then thought of how to use our 500 million people in the Nile Valley to benefit our region?”