Water and the Development of Africa

Past, Present, and Future

by Kwadwo A. Sarfoh (Author)
©2016 Monographs XX, 169 Pages


This book examines Africa’s water resources from pre-historic times to the present, illustrating how Africans and their rulers formulated water management systems to support water-sector activities including irrigation, livestock raising, fishing, river transportation, industry, and the generation of hydropower so crucial to the continent’s socio-economic transformation of its communities.
The recent increasing demand for water by Africa’s growing population makes it clear that new water management strategies are necessary for the continent to benefit from sustained development. In the face of ongoing water shortages caused by reduced rainfall, frequent droughts, and global warming, new political and economic arrangements are essential to ensure cooperative use of available water resources. Kwadwo A. Sarfoh argues that such arrangements will inevitably bring peace to countries that share river basins.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • List of illustrations
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter I Water: The Irreplaceable Natural Resource
  • Chapter II Water Resources of Africa
  • Chapter III Who Controls Africa’s Water Resources?
  • Chapter IV Water in the Formation of the Civilizations of Africa
  • Chapter V Rivers as Gateways to Inner Africa
  • Chapter VI Water Use in Colonial Africa
  • Chapter VII Water Use and Post-Colonial Development
  • Chapter VIII Water and Development in Africa in the 21st Century
  • Appendix: Water: Conflict Chronology in Africa
  • Bibliography
  • Index

| VII →


1.1 World Annual Water Use

1.2 Uses of Water (in km3)

2.1 Regional Distribution of Water Resources

2.2 Africa’s Larger Rivers and Their Drainage Basins

2.3 Large Natural Lakes in Africa

2.4 Environmental Dimensions of Some Natural Lakes in Africa

2.5 Major Anthropogenic Lakes in Colonial Africa

2.6 Groundwater Withdrawal in Select North African Countries

3.1 African Water Vision: 2015–2025

5.1 The Ten Largest Surface Water Bodies in Sub-Saharan Africa

5.2 Countries Belonging to Multiple International River and Lake Basins

6.1 Mediterranean Region and Rainfall by Country

6.2 Countries with High Hydropower Potential

6.3 Summary of Africa’s Hydropower Development ← VII | VIII →

6.4 List of Early Hydropower Projects

6.5 Major Hydro Plants in Colonial Africa

7.1 Regions and Countries in Need of Irrigation Farming

7.2 African Hydroelectric Development, 1920–1990

7.3 Selected Large Scale Hydro Projects

7.4 Small Hydropower Installed Capacity (in MW) in Africa

7.5 Hydroelectric Capacity and Production by Country, 1966

7.6 Selected Chinese Funded Projects

| IX →



1 The Hydrological Cycle

2 The Dominant Air Masses over Africa in January and July


1 Africa: Rivers, Lakes, Mountains and Basins

2 Human Evolution Archeological Sites

3 African Countries Involved in Agri-food Productions

| XI →


It is an honor to write the foreword for this book and a particular pleasure to write it on a subject of great importance for Africa, Water and the Development of Africa: Past, Present and Future.

As Professor Sarfoh points out in this book, water is of a protean nature. It can be solid like ice, fluid like river and gasiform like vapor. In between, we find such water-related phenomena as various forms of snow on the ground and clouds in the sky. And although the tiny fraction available for human use is unevenly distributed, water is in fact ubiquitous. Because of its ubiquitous nature, however, it is generally assumed that the earth’s supply of water is unlimited. Recent studies caution against this complacency. A United Nations study predicts that the world’s population will rise to about 7.8 billion by 2025 and to 9.07 billion by 2050. The danger of significant population growth has led researchers, such as Michael Klare (2004, 144), to warn that “the world will soon be using 100 percent of [its] available water supply, probably, by the mid-21st century.” Demand-induced scarcity will also be aggravated by the growing middle class in emerging economies. Middle class lifestyles increase water consumption, tipping the scale of ← XI | XII → the balance toward the demand side. Meanwhile, the available quantity of water has, is and will remain the same. Unawareness of the fragility of water supply, in terms of both quantity and quality, is often described as water blindness. This book comes in timely fashion to open our eyes and make us aware of the importance of this precious resource in the context of the African continent: ubiquitous but in limited supply, dependent on geographical configuration to sustain life, health and economic development.

Water has multiple uses and users and, as such, can offer opportunities for cooperation or become a source of conflict within and among nations. It is used for agriculture, industries, electrical power and mining, and as a solvent for many purposes, including medicine. Its use for sanitation has facilitated expansion of modern cities. Water has also facilitated transportation and trade. It has been used for entertainment and to beautify landscapes. The multiplicity of water uses can create a clash of interest among different users, particularly in times of scarcity. An integrated management of water in general and rivers in particular is needed both at the local and regional levels. Failure to manage water in this way results in the consequences described by Christian Parenti (2011) in his book, Tropics of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

In our modern world, integrated management of rivers is likely to minimize conflict among riparian states and maximize opportunities for cooperative endeavors at the regional level. The habit of cooperation offers mutual benefits that can spill over into other domains of economic development. Two obvious challenges include the fight against water-borne diseases and reframing conflicts in terms of river basin issues and addressing them as such.

In an article entitled “The fertile continent: Africa, agriculture’s final frontier,” Thurlow (2010) points out that “[m]ore and more eyes are turning to Africa, agriculture’s final frontier.” Because of availability of land and water, he asserts, “the rich would neglect Africa at its own peril … The continent that has been fed by the world’s food aid must now help feed the world” (p. 110).

Indeed, no great civilization has emerged without a degree of control and technical know-how in the use of its water resources. If ← XII | XIII → Africa is to develop and prosper, it must master its water resources and develop its river basins in cooperation with riparian states. This is the philosophy underlying Professor Sarfoh’s book. It is a must read for scholars, policy makers and students interested in African development.


XX, 169
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Water resources civilization of Africa fishing industry hydropower
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XX, 169 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Kwadwo A. Sarfoh (Author)

Kwadwo A. Sarfoh earned his B.A. (Hons) and his M.A at the University of Ghana, Legon. He received his PhD from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Sarfoh has taught at the University of Science and Technology Kumasi (now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Tennessee Technological University, and University at Albany, State University of New York.


Title: Water and the Development of Africa
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192 pages