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Water Wars? Tension in the Nile River Basin
Debaere, Peter; Cakir, Selcen Case GEM-0162 / Published September 21, 2018 / 17 pages.
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Product Overview

With an ever-growing world population, rising living standards, pollution, and climate change's uncertain weather patterns, it became almost a platitude that "the previous war was about oil, the next war will be about water." Of all water-related situations that might lead to war, the Nile basin tension was probably most likely to escalate. In the early 2000s, Ethiopia conceived a plan to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam across the Blue Nile, close to its border with Sudan, straining relations with downstream Egypt and Sudan. Could such smoldering tensions over water in a region with a history of conflict lead to war? This case is part of the "Global Economics of Water" course, a second-year elective for MBA students at the Darden School of Business. The case would also fit in any class that focuses on natural resources or international relations. It is used as an introduction to the water topic, as it touches upon some key aspects of water stress and the world's current water challenges.


Learning Objectives

Have students realize that there are much more subtle and effective ways than war to increase water supply. Shift focus from supply to demand, so that students also consider solutions to water stress that reduce demand. Introduce a more holistic approach to water issues, including especially international cooperation and water treaties. Provide an overview of some of the historical, geopolitical, and economic interactions among the Nile's riparian neighbors that lead to conflict over water. Use game theory to model water competition.

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  • Overview

    With an ever-growing world population, rising living standards, pollution, and climate change's uncertain weather patterns, it became almost a platitude that "the previous war was about oil, the next war will be about water." Of all water-related situations that might lead to war, the Nile basin tension was probably most likely to escalate. In the early 2000s, Ethiopia conceived a plan to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam across the Blue Nile, close to its border with Sudan, straining relations with downstream Egypt and Sudan. Could such smoldering tensions over water in a region with a history of conflict lead to war? This case is part of the "Global Economics of Water" course, a second-year elective for MBA students at the Darden School of Business. The case would also fit in any class that focuses on natural resources or international relations. It is used as an introduction to the water topic, as it touches upon some key aspects of water stress and the world's current water challenges.

  • Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Have students realize that there are much more subtle and effective ways than war to increase water supply. Shift focus from supply to demand, so that students also consider solutions to water stress that reduce demand. Introduce a more holistic approach to water issues, including especially international cooperation and water treaties. Provide an overview of some of the historical, geopolitical, and economic interactions among the Nile's riparian neighbors that lead to conflict over water. Use game theory to model water competition.