The key issues, for which scenarios have been presented under the freshwater theme, revolve around transboundary water resources management. As discussed in Chapter 4: Freshwater, the potential methods for increasing the opportunities associated with Africa’s freshwater resources include the adoption of river basin or catchment management, improved regional cooperation, enhanced and more equitable distribution of water, better sanitation and the recognition of water as an asset for environmental management. Opportunities can only be harnessed if the issues and threats facing resource sustainability are understood and addressed. Issues regarding water quality and quantity, availability, variability and accessibility, low levels of investment in water infrastructure and technology, exploration and assessment of freshwater (including groundwater) potential, water-borne diseases (such as schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and onchocerciasis (river blindness)), invasive alien species (IAS) and competition (conflict) over resources are critical to sustainable management of Africa’s water resources and achieving the MDG 7 targets of halving the proportion of people without improved drinking water in urban and rural areas, and halving the proportion of people without sanitation in urban and rural areas.

The main driving force and pressure for changes in the state of freshwater is population growth, although climate change is also a driver. This is evident in Chapter 4: Freshwater and it was also highlighted in the AEO-1 scenarios. The availability of water, both absolute and per capita, is a consequence of the growing number of people in Africa. There is growing demand for water for agricultural and industrial development, which can potentially lead to water scarcity. Population increases can also precipitate competition and conflict over available freshwater. Such conflicts may be between different economic sectors and, in some cases, between countries, or between communities which share common water bodies. Other drivers that affect the state of freshwater resources, and thus development opportunities, include climate, technological developments and socioeconomic and health factors. These driving forces are assessed in the following scenario narratives. The scenario narratives reveal the implications of different policy choices for realizing key objectives.