University of Sussex
Hanna, Ramy W. Lotfy.pdf (4.05 MB)

Water security mercantilism? Transnational state-capital alliances & multi-level hydropolitics of land-water investments in Egypt and the Nile Basin

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posted on 2023-06-09, 16:29 authored by Ramy W Lofty Hanna
Conventionally, the question of Egyptian water security focused on state-centric transboundary hydropolitics within the larger context of the Nile basin. The presented research explores ‘water security’ beyond this ‘state-centric epistemology’, typically focusing on a singular scale of hydropolitical analysis. This dissertation examines the water (hydro) politics of transnational land-water investments (LWI) within Egypt and the larger context of the Nile river basin. Adopting a multi-site case study methodology, it critically examines the changing role of the state and the engagement of non-state actors in the silent appropriation of land-water resources through investments in farmlands abroad. The research methodology contextualizes how land acquisitions take several shapes and forms within Egypt (Old-New Lands and New Lands/Mega Projects), as well as in other Nile basin countries (e.g. Sudan). They also manifest land-water-food nexus interdependencies for both; profit and larger strategic objectives, through the formation of ‘State-Capital alliances’. Deploying a case study of an international Emirati investor in Egypt, it shows how land-water investments are rooted in a larger socio-political project as part of the state’s vision of horizontal expansion and land reclamation, to address its ecological-demographic narrative of crisis. The research also draws linkages between Egyptian water security and transnational investments in other Nile basin countries with a particular focus on the case of Sudan as part of its larger vision of the ‘breadbasket of the Arab World’. However, while these State-Capital alliances are rooted in narratives of state modernization, security, and profit, they entail various tensions and trade-offs amongst different resources nexi and actors, thus masking larger questions of social justice and equity. These tensions often reflect the manufacture of abundance and translate into water grabs transcending multiple hydropolitical scales. The thesis argues that the changing role of the “entrepreneurial state” and the engagement of non-state actors in transnational land-water investments manifest a transition from the hydraulic mission towards water security mercantilism. I argue that “water security mercantilism” denotes water grabbing, which overrides the conventional understanding of the hydraulic mission (water control by the state); towards a broader understanding of the role of non-state actors and international investors in accessing water, thus creating their own private resources security nexus. Hence, drawing on development studies, hydropolitics, and political economy scholarship, this dissertation broadens out the analysis of Egyptian water security beyond singular-scale state-centric hydropolitical debates; towards a multi-level polycentric analysis of water security, central to which are the farmers, the investors, and the state itself. This implies that transnational land-water investments not only influence small farmers through the reproduction of scarcity on the local level, but also influence the hydraulic mission of the state on the national level, and the larger Nile basin transboundary hydropolitics.


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University of Sussex

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