Daily Brief logo

Good morning, this is Michelle, bringing you the latest part from our water security series. This week, ministers from around the world travelled to Geneva to discuss how to work together to protect shared water resources.

On that occasion, we examine one of the most cited examples of cooperation between states in West Africa, where the Senegal River has been jointly managed for half a century.

photo journaliste

Michelle Langrand


Cooperating over shared water in West Africa

Photo article

(Credit: Rocio Egio for Geneva Solutions)

In northern Senegal, the town of Podor sits on the southern bank of the Senegal River. Its inhabitants only have to look over to the opposite side of the watercourse to get a view of the valley stretching North into Mauritania.

Baaba Maal, today a world-renowned singer, was born in that small town of farmers and fishers, right where the two West African countries meet. “When I was a kid, we would cross over to the other side of the river to cultivate the land. For us, there was no border,” the Senegalese artist reminisces in conversation with Geneva Solutions.

From the Fouta Djallon highlands in Central Guinea, the Senegal River flows north towards the Malian border, then turns west, slithering between Mauritania and Senegal, to end its 1,086km journey in the Atlantic Ocean.

Like with the hundreds of other transboundary rivers in the world, the fates of the four West African countries that it crosses over are inevitably linked. The river basin is home to some 3.5 million people, who depend on it for food, drinking water and work. It provides 60 per cent of Dakar’s water and all the water of the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. The Manantali dam in Mali, generates energy for Dakar, Nouakchott and Bamako.

That level of development has stemmed from half a century of cooperation. Faced with a series of deadly droughts that hit the Sahel in the late 1960s, Mali, Senegal and Mauritania joined forces in 1972 to form the Senegal River Basin Development Authority, commonly known as the OMVS for it’s French initials. They were later joined by Guinea in 2005.

Tasked with sustainably managing the river for the riparian countries, the OMVS is often cited as a leading example of how states can work together to tackle the common problems related to water access.

Read more in Geneva Solutions

Here's what else is happening

Water in numbers

Photo article

🏞️ Transboundary river and lake basins are home to over 40 million people and cover almost half of the Earth's surface, according to the UN. At least 148 countries have international basins within their territory, and 21 states lie completely within them. Most basins are shared by two to four countries, but a few are shared by a higher number of states, with the Danube cutting through 10 states and draining the territories of 18 countries.

GS news is a new media project covering the world of international cooperation and development. Don’t hesitate to forward our newsletter!

Have a good day!

Avenue du Bouchet 2
1209 Genève