Strategic plan for vital watercourse in Africa has been approved


A new strategic plan seeks to enhance socio-economic development and sustainable management of the Zambezi Watercourse shared by eight African States. COWI has led the development of the plan – a crucial element to balance the need for economic growth and the increasing risk of droughts and floods.

Competition for the water and consequently the risk of disputes between countries is escalating due to climate change and the wish for socio-economic growth and wellbeing among increasing populations.

Now, a strategic plan for the Zambezi Watercourse has been approved by eight African states – Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"Due to the competition for water, the need for transboundary cooperation such as this strategic plan for the Zambezi Watercourse is increasingly important. Fortunately, the Zambezi Watercourse is blessed to have established a good and long cooperation framework," explains Peter Qwist-Hoffmann, Project Director in COWI.

COWI has led the development of the Strategic Plan for the Zambezi Watercourse carried out for the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), the World Bank and Danida.

One of the core analytical tools used and configured for the Zambezi Watercourse is called WHAT-IF (Water, Hydropower, Agriculture Tool for Investment and Financing) – a hydro-economic assessment tool that values the use of water for food, energy, and other purposes.

The tool was used to make a detailed socio-economic analysis for both historic and potential future climates, i.e. estimating the costs and economic welfare gains across diverse sectors, borders and stakeholders by modelling the water resources, agricultural and energy systems as an integrated system, providing a rich set of both biophysical and economic indicators.

Coordinated efforts needed to create sustainable growth

The main strategic issue faced in the Watercourse is to achieve the balanced need for economic growth, inclusive of ensuring environmental sustainability, and the risk of droughts and floods posed by a historically highly variable climate, a risk which is predicted to be further exacerbated by climate change.

"Poverty and poverty-induced degradation of catchment areas are jointly the largest threats to the people, the ecosystems and future development of the Watercourse. This degradation is likely to intensify unless a concerted effort is made to improve the livelihoods of the poorest sectors of the population, who are mostly engaged in smallholder rain-fed agriculture," says Peter Qwist-Hoffmann.

At the approval ceremony held in Tanzania, Michael Mutale, Executive Secretary for ZAMCOM said:

"The Strategic Plan for the Zambezi Watercourse provides a vital and long-term framework for sustainable development on the Zambezi Watercourse by the eight Riparian States, notably: Angola, Botswana; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Tanzania; Zambia; and Zimbabwe. The Plan also provides a strategic foundation for securing funding from International Cooperating Partners to fulfil our vision and reach the common goal."

An estimated 28% (about 47 million) of the countries' total population live within the vital watercourse.


About the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM):

The Agreement for establishing the Zambezi Watercourse Commission came into force on 19 June 2011 and provides for the preparation of a strategic development plan, including a general planning tool for the identification, categorisation and prioritisation of projects and programmes for the sustainable development and efficient management of the Zambezi Watercourse.

The Strategic Plan for the Zambezi Watercourse was developed by a Consortium of Consultants, including COWI (Lead), The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) of Sweden, Pegasys of South Africa, Aurecon of South Africa and Industrial Economics of USA.

Here is another example of COWI's work on transboundary water management. 


  • Majority of the World's available freshwater resources are located in transboundary river basins or aquifers.
  • The 263 transboundary lake and river basins cover almost half the Earth’s surface.
  • 145 States have territory in these basins, and 30 countries lie entirely within them.
  • There are approximately 300 transboundary aquifers, helping to serve the 2 billion people who depend on groundwater.
  • Cooperation is essential, especially in areas vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and where water is already scarce.
  • Wetlands around lakes and floodplains that straddle national boundaries provide essential ecosystem services to the surrounding populations, such as food provision, barriers against flooding and the natural processing of pollution.


Get in contact

Peter Qwist-Hoffmann

Peter Qwist-Hoffmann
Project manager
Water, Denmark

Tel: +45 41760241