The Senegal River Basin Development Organization (OMVS), which will mark its 50th anniversary in March 2022, is the only African river management organization to have systematically implemented the principle of equitable sharing among member states when it comes to ownership of river basin infrastructure or water resource benefits. For various reasons, it is a strategic organization for Senegal and its neighbors.
Firstly, 60% of the potable water in Dakar comes from OMVS implemented infrastructure while 100% of the water in the cities of Nouakchott, in Mauritania and Saint Louis, in Senegal, derive from OMVS infrastructure. Secondly, in addition to providing a viable and consistent water supply, the OMVS has provided over 375,000 hectares of potentially irrigable land that has ensured the right conditions to carry out intensive, yet environmentally sustainable agricultural production throughout the OMVS Basin. Accordingly, the OMVS has emerged as a critical organization regarding agriculture expansion, playing a crucial role in ensuring regional collaboration and stability within the sector.
Economically, the OMVS has done more than just facilitate agriculture and water industry growth, and serves as a crucial transport corridor and catalyst for economic activity and regional integration. Politically, the OMVS has played a crucial role as a mechanism that promotes regional stability and cooperation. For example, despite periodic geopolitical turmoil in the sub region over the past few decades, the OMVS has nevertheless always managed to assert its role as a cooperative management organization that facilitates benefits sharing of this important resource to all its members.
Thirdly, infrastructure that has been built and is managed by the OMVS generates 800 GWh per year of clean affordable energy. In Senegalese companies such as SENELEC and institutions such as the Ministry of Petroleum and Energies are eager to further harness the hydropower potential of the entire Senegal River Basin so as to better develop cross-border cooperation in the power generation sector. A number of major projects are underway throughout the sub-region precisely to achieve that objective, of which the most notable comprises the 294 MW Koukoutamba hydro project in northern Guinea constructed by the Chinese engineering giant Sinohydro and commissioned by the Senegal River Basin Development Organization.
The OMVS infrastructure program is designed to harness about 67% of the total hydropower capacity of the Senegal river basin, which is estimated at around 2000 MW. In addition to helping meet growing electricity demand in the four-member countries, over the next few years the investment program is expected to significantly reduce imports. Senegal and Mauritania have already demonstrated excellent cross-border cooperation in the oil and gas sector through projects such as the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project. Through the OMVS, other regional countries have and continue to tap into the huge hydropower potential of the OMVS River Basin to support long-term economic growth on the back of renewable energy, maintaining agricultural development and fostering shared prosperity.
The OMVS’s overall objectives are to increase food security, produce energy, reduce poverty, and promote the free movement of goods and services. The strength of the organization comes from the fact that its objectives align with its member countries, and thus, the organization is able to pursue agreed upon projects that are both technically and politically feasible.
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