African Civil Society and labour activists have called on African governments to reject the agenda of privatisating water systems being pushed on them by the bretton woods institutions.
The activists, who are on the platform of the “Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition, ”
said African leaders should rather demand the return of water systems seized by private corporations back to the hands of the African people.
They argued that African water systems must be publicly funded and equitably managed by the African States.
The coalition made the demand at a virtual international press conference where the report on “Africa Must Rise & Resist Water Privatisation” was launched as part of activities marking the Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation, from 11 October to15 October, 2021.
The week of action coincides with annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), institutions, which the coalition accused of being among the biggest drivers of water privatisation in Africa.
The Africa Must Rise & Resist Water Privatisation report, details how privatisation had become the most potent threat to Africans’ human right to water and 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 privatisation path.
Activists making the demands come from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, representing parts of the continent currently under acute threat of water privatisation.
Among the groups were the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Public Services International (PSI), Africa Centre for Advocacy (ACA), Syndicat Autonomes des Travailleurs de l’Eau du Sénégal.
The virtual meeting were addressed by activists who insisted that while water remained one of the most fundamental necessities of life, giant corporations like Veolia and Suez, backed by international financial institutions like the World Bank were exploiting “this basic need by trying to privatise water across the African continent, threatening to leave millions of people suffering without water.”
The Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition insist that government leaders must invest in public water systems that included meaningful public participation in water governance, with 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.
Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, who detailed the need for community and labour resistance to water privatisation said:
“No matter where you are from on this continent, the threat of water privatisation is real. Corporations and institutions like the World Bank are trying to suck water and profits out of Africa as though they have a massive drinking straw. But Africans say no—our water, our right.”
On the impacts of water privatisation on workers in Africa and the role of labour in the movement confronting it, Dr. Everline Aketch, Sub-regional Secretary for English-Speaking Africa, PSI said:
“As labourers and citizens, we are guardians of good governance. So, the labour movement joins civil society in saying that water is life. When governments move to allow water privatisation, it means they are trying to kill our people.”
Mr Leonard Shang-Quartey, Coordinator of the Alternative World Water Forum Africa, also outlined the World Bank’s plans to ensure its privatisation plans advance unchallenged in Africa.
He said: “The determination of the World Bank to grab Africa’s water is the reason why the World Water Council wants to hold the so-called World Water Forum in Africa in March of 2022 in Senegal, one of the few countries where public-private partnership in water is still running despite huge failures and havoc it has caused the people.”
In connecting the struggle for water justice in Africa to the broader Pan-African movement for Black liberation, Dr. Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter Grassroots said:
“It is an African principle that people should share in and have a right to the world’s resources.
“The idea that water could be privately owned is a white supremacist notion. Access to water should be a human right, not something held by white supremacist capitalism.
“When we say Black Lives Matter, that is not only a fight to end state sanctioned violence and police brutality against Black people. It is also about any form of injustice against Black people and people of colour all over the world through capitalist policies such as privatisation of social services, including water. So, we must stand against privatization everywhere.”
A position statement shared by the coalition reinforcing its opposition to water privatisation and voicing demands to governments, corporations, and institutions has been endorsed by over 100 organisations from around the world.