A Coalition of Civil Society organisations, Our Water, Our Rights Africa Coalition (OWORAC) in flagging off the Africa Water Week 2023 has canvassed the need for concerted actions against the privatisation of water resources in Africa.
Speaking at an international press briefing to commence the third edition of the Africa Water Week tagged: “Holding Hands to Protect Africa’s Water from Corporate Capture” held in Lagos, Nigeria, representatives of the group across the African continent joined their voices on the need for government across Africa to treat water as a basic human right and as such ensure its accessibility to members of the public.
Making a case for accessibility of water to people living in the African continent, representatives of the group agreed on the prevalence of growing poverty in Africa and that water privatisation would further exacerbate the living conditions of the majority of the population.
Speaking during the event, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the executive director of Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), noted that water is not a commodity to be bartered or sold to the highest bidder as it constitutes part of the fundamental human rights of the people.
“I just came from Cameroon. I had to drive through certain villages for about 14 hours. The story is the same of lack of access to water,” he said.
“Now what they have enabled our government to do, or in some cases instigated them to do, is to create conditions of lack and that is the narrative that they are pushing that for us to have water, it has to be privatised. And we said no,” he explained.
“We will not fall for that scam in Africa. And that is why we are saying let us all, as communities across this continent, hold our hands together. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that every African has access to clean, accessible water.”
Shedding light on current water privatisation realities in Mozambique, kete Fumo, OWORAC representative in Mozambique, shared that the commercialisation of water would heighten the financial burden on rural dwellers who currently account for up to 70 percent of the country’s total population further raising the ratio of poor people to the highest in recent history.
Also, Everline Akech, secretary for English Speaking Africa for Public Services International, noted that “commodification of water in Africa will come at a huge price and that price will be paid by communities whose access to water will be severely restricted, women who will not be able to afford the huge costs and will have to seek unwholesome alternatives and children who will be severely dehydrated from unquenchable thirst.”
Adding to the discussion, Fatou Diouf, project coordinator for French Speaking Africa, Public Services International, highlighted that water privatisation on workers, would pose a financial crunch to workers who are the drivers of Africa’s economy.
On his part, Neil Gupta, campaign manager and corporate accountability partner at OWORAC, outlined the action steps which Africa must take to reclaim its water resources.
He said,” Now, unfortunately, there is an entire industry that aims to exploit our need for water to profit. Multi-billion dollar corporations and their wealthy shareholders, mostly based in the global north, have made riches from privatizing community water systems across the globe.
“The privatization of essential services like water shifts the priority from ensuring universal access to maximizing profit for the corporation and its shareholders. This explains why, in case after case, country after country, water privatization is all too often followed by unaffordable tariff hikes, labor abuses, and job cuts, and really dangerous cost cutting that puts communities at risk.”
Gupta opined that Africans must understand and “make sure that their rights are not taken away from them and that the interest of international organizations in Africa is something to worry about.”