Discussion Papers

No.877 The Political Economy of Egypt’s Hydrohegemony in the Nile Basin


March 2023


Much of scholarly literature on transboundary water relations focuses on conflict and cooperation with insights from both neorealist and neoliberal international relations theories. While neorealists emphasize the overall material distribution of power between states, neoliberalists highlight how international law and institutions may shape state preferences toward international cooperation. Other scholars have used the conceptual framework of hydrohegemony to understand the power asymmetry between states, examining how different dimensions of power among riparian states shape transboundary settings. These approaches to transboundary water interaction focus on the state as the primary unit of analysis and assume that foreign policy decision-making primarily aims to serve national interests. However, the preoccupation with a state-centric approach to transboundary water relations has often led scholars to overlook or downplay other critical variables within the domestic political realm. These include the political economy of authoritarian rule and salience of regime security as a unit of analysis. This paper argues that the decline of Egypt’s hydrohegemony in the Nile basin can be best explained by tracing Egypt’s political economy of regime consolidation. This approach clarifies the changing place of the Nile in the domestic and foreign policy priorities of the ruling elite and the forces and actions that have and continue to shape Egypt’s hydropolitics in the Nile River basin.

Keywords: Egypt, the Nile River, hydropolitics, hegemony, political economy, agriculture

JEL classification: F59, N55

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