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What is the cooperative framework agreement (CFA) and what is its purpose?

The text of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) outlines principles, rights and obligations for cooperative management and development of the Nile Basin water resources.  Rather than quantifying 'equitable rights' or water use allocations, the Treaty intends to establish a framework to "promote integrated management, sustainable development, and harmonious utilization of the water resources of the Basin, as well as their conservation and protection for the benefit of present and future generations".  For this purpose, the Treaty envisages the establishment of a permanent institutional mechanism, the Nile River Basin Commission (NRBC).  The Commission would serve to promote and facilitate the implementation of the CFA and to facilitate cooperation among the Nile Basin States in the conservation, management and development of the Nile River Basin and its waters.

Content of the CFA

The intended scope of the Treaty and use of terms are defined in Articles 1 and 2.  The remainder of the text is divided into six parts on (I) general principles, (II) rights and obligations (III) institutional structure and role of the Nile River Basin Commission (NRBC), (IV) subsidiary institutions, (V) miscellaneous provisions, and (VI) final clauses.

Part I of the text includes to a large part well established customary principles of international water law; the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization, the obligation not to cause significant harm, and the principle of protection and conservation of the river's ecosystem.  The principles outlined in Part I serve as guidance to countries on how to implement the Treaty and how to manage and develop the River's resources in a sustainable manner.

Part II of the text outlines specific rights and obligations of State Parties, including obligations to regularly exchange data and information, to notify planned measures and to observe the subsidiarity principle in development and protection of the Nile.  Detailed notification procedures would be developed by the NRBC.  State Parties would be under an obligation to carry out environmental impact assessments for planned measures that may have significant adverse affect, and to conduct environmental audits of these measures where this is warranted by the circumstances.  The unresolved parts of Article 14, which addresses the issue of water security for all Nile Basin States, have been annexed to the Treaty.  The NRBC would be mandated with seeking a resolution on the terms of the article within six months of its establishment.

The establishment of the Nile River Basin Commission is envisaged in Part III of the Treaty text.  It would comprise the following organs; the Conference of Heads of State and Government, the Council of Ministers, the Technical Advisory Committee, Sectoral Advisory Committees, and the Secretariat.  The NRBC would succeed to the rights, obligations and assets of the NBI.  The possibility to establish subsidiary institutions is provided for in Part IV of the Treaty.

Part V outlines the procedures by which disputes that might arise from the implementation and application of the Treaty would be settled. Furthermore, it envisages the establishment of bilateral or plurilateral instruments (agreements) that would supplement the CFA.

Part VI outlines the procedures for amendments, ratification and entry into force of the CFA.  

Ratification process and entry into force

The Treaty is subject to ratification.  It will not enter into force until at least 60 days after six countries have ratified or acceded to the document and deposited with the African Union.  Signature of the CFA is an intermediate step by which countries indicate their willingness to ratify the Treaty in the future; yet they are under no legal obligation to ratify.  Signature of the treaty puts countries under an obligation not to set any acts that would undermine the objective and purpose of the CFA.  (As of March 2011, the CFA has been signed by six countries.)   As long as the treaty has not entered into force the text can be renegotiated; if this results in text changes the new document will be again subject to the two step process of signature and ratification. The Treaty has not legal effect on States that do not sign or ratify the document. Nile Basin Countries which do not sign or ratify the CFA are not bound by it.

What is the significance of the treaty for nile basin development

The Treaty intends to establish principles, rights and obligations to ensure long-term and sustainable management and development of the shared Nile waters.  According to its provisions, the Nile Basin States would assume the obligation to cooperate on the conservation, management and development of the Basin and its waters.

The Treaty would establish a legal basis for a permanent and joint management institution, the Nile River Basin Commission (NRBC), which would be vested with legal personality as well as enhance Nile cooperation. The NRBC will ensure that national development projects are coordinated with basin-wide development to achieve optimal use of the Basin's resources and increase national benefits of regional cooperation.

The Treaty could play a key role in catalyzing economic growth, reducing poverty, facilitating regional integration, and promoting regional peace and stability.  Its adoption by all Basin States would represent a sign of their commitment to cooperate in the development and utilization of their shared water resources. Such a sign of commitment could facilitate access to international finance and relations to development partners from the public and private sector.

Evolution of the treaty - negotiation process

The text of the CFA was developed over more than a decade of intensive work (see Table 1).  A draft CFA text was submitted to the Council of Ministers of Water Affairs of the Nile Basin States (Nile-COM) in March 2006.  The Nile-COM members completed their negotiations of the CFA on June 25, 2007, with all but one reservation lifted (Article 14b).  The final decision by the COM was to refer the reservation to their Heads of State to resolve as this 'represented an underlying difference through ten years of negotiation.'

Table 1: Evolution of the Cooperative Framework Agreement



Brief Description

Jan 1997 – Mar 2000

Panel of Experts

Text, or working document of principles, rights and obligations, and institutions, prepared.

Aug 200- Aug 2001

Transitional Committee

Text converted into draft Agreement.

Dec 2003 – Dec 2005

Negotiations Committee

Draft Agreement negotiated with full mandate.   Numerous reservations (‘brackets’ – alternative texts representing different positions) remain.

Mar 2006 – Jun 2007

Ministerial Negotiations

Draft Agreement advanced, with all but one reservation removed (Article 14, Water Security). Final reservation referred to Heads of State.

August 2008


Reengagement, re-opening of the file at the Ministerial level.

Kinshasa Meeting

May 22, 2009


7 member countries agree to annex Article 14b for later resolution by NRBC; reservation by Egypt; Sudan not present at time of decision, but subsequently expressed its reservation.


July 3, 2009

Meeting of country negotiators

7 countries agree on a cleaned text; strong reservations by Egypt and Sudan

Alexandria Meeting

July 27/28, 2009


Joint decision to allow for more time to seek joint agreement

Entebbe, Sept 2009

Dar es Salaam, Dec 2009

Sharm el Sheikh, Apr 2010

Joint Nile-TAC and Negotiators Committee

Deliberations on options to move forward together

Sharm el Sheikh Meeting

April 13, 2010


7 countries agree to open CFA (cleaned text) for signature; position rejected by Egypt and Sudan

May 14, 2010

CFA opened for signature

4 countries (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) sign the opened CFA in Entebbe, Uganda

May 19, 2010


Kenya signs the CFA in Nairobi, Kenya

February 28, 2011


Burundi signs the CFA in Bujumbura, Burundi

June 13, 2013


Ethiopia ratifies the CFA

August 28, 2013


Rwanda ratifies the CFA

March 26, 2015


Tanzania ratifies the CFA

August 15 2019


Uganda ratifies the CFA

The full text of the Cooperative Framework Agreement 


One River One People One Vision

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is an intergovernmental partnership of 10 Nile Basin countries, namely Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, The Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Eritrea participates as an observer. For the first time in the Basin's history, an all-inclusive basin-wide institution was established on 22nd February, 1999... Read more

Shared  Vision Objective:To achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources

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The NBI Secretariat (Nile-SEC) is the executive and technical arm of the NBI, an institution jointly owned by all the 10 Member States. based in Entebbe – Uganda and is responsible for the overall corporate direction as well as the lead center for two programs: Basin Cooperation and Water Resource Management.



Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit

The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) is the executive and technical arm of the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP), an institution jointly owned by Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda

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Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office

The Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) is the executive and technical arm of the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP), an institution jointly owned by Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan. ENTRO is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and is responsible for driving the Water Resource Development function in ENSAP by assisting Member States to identify...

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