Communities impacted and those under threat of water privatization across Africa have called on African governments to jettison water privatisation and return privatized water systems to localities for affordable and equitable management.
Local communities in Nigeria, Mozambique, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Gabon, Uganda, and a host of other African countries are making this their focal demand as they mark the second edition of Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatization which holds from 11-14 October 2022 to coincide with annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The communities, working in collaboration with civil society and labour groups under the aegis of the Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition will be holding townhall meetings, community engagements, press briefings, protest marches, meetings with policymakers and a host of engagements to press home their opposition to water privatization schemes and the commodification of water, promoted by the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions, which continue to deprive communities their right to existence. In some communities, water has been priced out of the reach of locals, forcing women and young girls to go the extra mile, including exposing themselves to dangers to get water for basic needs.
The communities, working in concert with civil society and labour, insist that while water remains one of the most fundamental necessities for life, giant corporations like Veolia and Suez, backed by international financial institutions like the World Bank are exploiting this basic need by trying to privatise water across the African continent, threatening to leave millions of people in communities suffering without water.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), explaining the significance of the 2022 commemoration said:
“When communities are deprived of a basic right which guarantees their existence and the bond that has kept them connected to their culture and spirituality for generations, will ultimately cease to exist. That is why communities are leading the resistance to what corporations like Veolia and institutions like the World Bank are marketing on the African continent. But the message is clear. We do not want our water systems privatized”
On the impacts of water privatisation on communities, Younoussa Abbosouka, Programme Officer at the African Center for Advocacy said:
“With water privatization, there is a monopoly over a resource that is not supposed to belong to anyone except for local communities to sustain their vital needs. These communities have effective alternatives centred on community-based water management, which promotes community interest and well-being. They are opposed to any idea of privatization of this basic social service!”
The inaugural Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatization which was held from 11 -15 October 2021 was spearheaded by civil society and labour groups on the continent. The high point was the launch of a report – Africa Must Rise & Resist Water Privatisation – which details how privatisation has become the most potent threat to Africans’ human right to water. It cites water privatisation failures in the United States, Chile, and France as lessons for African governments being pressured by the World Bank and a host of multilateral financial institutions to toe the privatization path. The Portuguese and French versions of the report will be unveiled at a press briefing on October 11 where stories and realities of African communities will be showcased in videos to kickstart the week of action.
The key demand of the communities is that their governments halt privatization plans and instead, invest in public water systems that include meaningful public participation in water governance, with a particular focus on the perspectives of those typically left out of decision-making processes, including but not limited to women, low-income people, and rural communities.