Combined with forecast higher living standards and GDP growth, population growth will be the major driver for future food and water requirements in the Nile. Population growth coupled with the current risks, vulnerabilities and challenges posed by poverty, hunger, disease, production and consumption patterns, and climate change, will place increased pressure on the basins natural (forests, wetlands and biodiversity) resources that sustain human life.

The Nile Basin Partner states projected demographic structure, population and urbanization growth present enormous implications and opportunities for human development, structural transformation and sustained economic growth. Demography remains the single most important driver of sustainable development affecting both production and consumption through increased demand for goods and services as well as social amenities, but at the same time poses threats to the sustainable exploitation of the common Nile river basin resources.

An estimated 30% of the present Nile basin partner states population currently lives in urban areas. This proportion is expected to grow to 37% by 2030 and 47% by 2050. Cairo, which was the most populous city in the basin by 2010, is expected to grow by 23% to 13.5m people. The challenges of food and water shortages, poor infrastructure and housing remain major concerns as the regions cities burgeon in population, with specific attention needed to reducing the proportion of slum dwellers, who currently account for 70% of urban inhabitants in Africa (UN habitat 2011).

Cross-border agricultural trade in the Nile Basin is hampered by logistic and institutional constraints, and by the low level of agro-processing in most Nile countries. Poor infrastructure in rural areas, absence of infrastructure for bulk cargo transport between the upper and lower riparian zones, very high transport costs, lack of storage facilities, custom procedures and non-tariff barriers, and health regulations and standards that are difficult to meet for individual producers are among the factors that make intra- basin trade of agricultural produce a difficult undertaking.

Trade volumes among the Nile countries are indeed small. Some trade occurs among the East African countries, where Uganda is the largest exporter. Intra-basin agricultural trade between the upper and lower Nile regions is virtually non-existent, apart from export of tea from Kenya to Egypt.