Establishing a Cubango-Okavango endowment fund for long-term basin health

Credit: Ken Nyetta

Cooperation in International Waters in Africa: Annual Report FY2018

Feature Stories – Establishing a Cubango-Okavango Endowment Fund for Long-term Basin Health


  • The Cubango-Okavango River Basin is internationally recognized for its unique eco-system and biodiversity.
  • Environmental changes in the basin are largely driven by four factors – poverty, population dynamics, land use changes and climate change – leading to deterioration in water quality, changes in the flood pulse, and diminishing biota.
  • An Endowment Fund for the Cubango-Okavango River Basin has been endorsed by ministers from the three member states with the aim of providing long-term programmatic financing for livelihood improvements and sustainable use actions.

The Cubango-Okavango River Basin (CORB) holds one of the world’s most unique, near pristine free-flowing rivers, and is central to sustainable economic development within the arid landscapes of southern Africa. The complex flood pulse cycle provides important services for local communities while supporting a rich and unique biodiversity that makes it a wetland of international importance and a World Heritage site.

Persistent poverty across the basin, coupled with changes in climate, have driven unsustainable land use practices that have the potential to undermine sustainability of the basin. With support from the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, the World Bank has been working with the member states of Angola, Botswana, and Namibia as part of a systematic strategy by the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) to achieve socially just, economically prosperous, and environmentally healthy development of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin (CORB).

A consultative approach was used to develop tools needed to support the member states in exploring sustainable development opportunities. A range of development scenarios were developed for the basin based on economic, social, environmental, and climate resilient trajectories to the year 2040. The scenarios were analyzed within the framework of OKACOM’s Shared Vision, national development objectives, and investment plans to outline a set of illustrative joint actions that inform the desired “development space”. These were supported through an assessment of the benefits of cooperation in CORB and a network map of stakeholders to better inform options and opportunities to advance the investment programs and strengthen cooperation in the basin.

As part of this process, the OKACOM Secretariat requested support in 2015 from the World Bank to assist in structuring a dedicated Endowment Fund for the CORB. The CORB Fund will provide a vehicle for mobilizing long-term resources that will enable the countries to provide more coordinated support to local livelihoods and sustainable resource use. This initial concept was endorsed by OKACOM in 2016 and provided the foundations for establishing the endowment fund along with a roadmap for its implementation. With continued technical assistance from CIWA and financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), OKACOM appointed consultants in 2016 to assist with the institutional and legal establishment of a fund for the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.

Ministers from the three member states endorsed the next steps for establishment of the CORB endowment fund at the OKACOM Minister’s Forum on June 8, 2018 in Luanda. The fund will be registered in Botswana and the member states have undertaken to carry out internal consultations on the constitution and appointment of members and directors for the fund. The ministers hope to establish the Fund by April 2019.

CIWA has been requested to continue to provide programmatic support for implementation of the endowment fund. This will continue to build on the partnerships with the DFID-financed CRIDF, the UNDP GEF-financed project, a new phase of USAID financing, support from the EU, and a new initiative being supported by The Nature Conservancy. The commitments of the member states to continued cooperation around the sustainable development of the CORB represents a new and innovative phase within the history of developments within the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.

The CORB Endowment Fund provides an innovative model and unique opportunity to leverage the global environmental goods within the Cubango-Okavango River Basin to address the main threats facing the CORB, improve livelihoods, and address the underlying drivers of poverty. The commitment from the member states reflects the evolution of the cooperative venture launched in 1994 and the promise of achieving the shared vision of socially just, economically prosperous, and environmentally healthy development of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.