WCD in Africa

South African Dam-affected People at a 2004 WCD multistakeholder Meeting
South African Dam-affected People at a 2004 WCD multistakeholder Meeting
Since the World Commission on Dams published its final report in 2000, efforts have been made to promote its rights–based approach to water and energy planning across Africa. African NGOs working on dam issues have been instrumental in prompting national multi–stakeholder dialogues on the WCD, and educating local communities on its findings. Below are some highlights from across the continent.

Important African contributions were made to the WCD, including a case study on Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe, a case study on the Van der Kloof and Gariep Dams in South Africa, and a regional consultation on Africa and the Middle East. The Southern African Hearings for Communities Affected by Large Dams organized by NGOs in November 1999, and submitted to the WCD. A report on Southern Africa’s potential for water conservation written by NGOs was also submitted to the WCD.

National Efforts

South Africa

In South Africa – the African country with the most large dams (over 500) – the South Africa Multi–Stakeholder Initiative on the WCD completed its work in early 2005. The South Africa process was conducted over 3+ years with the goal of adapting the WCD report to the unique context of South Africa. The coordinating committee worked diligently to ensure a fair process and input from all stakeholders, including dam–affected communities.


In Nigeria, the Society for Water and Public Health Protection (SWAPHEP) held a public dialogue on the WCD in May 2003. The African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) also conducted a workshop on the WCD and the proposed Hydro–Electric Power Producing Areas Commission (HYPPADEC) in November 2003.


In Uganda, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) hosted the national launch of the WCD in October 2004. NAPE also developed a brochure in three local languages to promote awareness of the WCD among dam–affected communities in Uganda. Read the Uganda WCD committee's Scoping Report on Decision-Making Processes on Dams in Uganda.

Regional Efforts

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed in July 2002 to make the development of a regional position on the WCD report a priority, though progress has been slow. SADC countries were encouraged to hold consultations and formulate national positions on the WCD recommendations. South Africa’s process (noted above) is the furthest along in the SADC region. With support from the follow–up organization to the WCD (called the DDP), multi–stakeholder workshops have been held in Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi and Zambia. In Mozambique, NGOs have worked to engage the government and other stakeholders to join in a multi–stakeholder process on the WCD, but have thus far been unsuccessful. They have demanded a moratorium by the government on all dam projects, specifically Mphanda Nkuwa, until the WCD is incorporated into national legislation through a multi–stakeholder process.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) welcomed the WCD report when it was released as “a major milestone in the assessment of large dams.” AfDB said it plans "to incorporate the criteria and guidelines during the development of Bank’s technical guidelines to support our recently completed policy on Integrated Water Resources Management," though no additional integration of the WCD has been publicized.

Comparisons of African Dams Against WCD Guidelines

Large dams are regularly prioritized (and even built) without a thorough understanding of the nation’s actual water or energy needs, and without analysis on the best options for meeting those needs. The following projects were reviewed by International Rivers against the WCD guidelines in preparation for the launch of the WCD report: