LAGOS, Nigeria – At a time when life is more precarious than ever, the necessity to prioritise that which gives life is likewise greater than ever. Water is one of the most fundamental necessities for life, yet giant corporations backed by international financial institutions are exploiting this basic need by trying to privatise water across the African continent, threatening to leave millions of people suffering without water. The only just path forward is by rejecting privatisation and returning water into the hands of the African people, who together have and will continue to advance public water solutions funded by public dollars. Today, African water protectors making up the Our Water, Our Right Africa Coalition, detailed the threat of privatisation on the continent, shared their experience challenging the abuses of this industry, and voiced their demands for change.
Private water giants like Veolia and Suez have been capturing Africa’s water systems for decades with the backing of institutions like the World Bank, undermining African governments’ efforts to ensure universal water access for their people. Right now the World Bank, one of the largest drivers of water privatisation in the Global South, is holding its annual meetings. Worse, Veolia and Suez, the two largest private water corporations in the world, are on the cusp of a mega-merger that would consolidate their control and further threaten the African people’s right to water systems that ensure true public health and equity. All this shows that the threat of corporate control of water for generations to come is becoming increasingly dire.
“No matter where you are from on this continent, the threat of water privatisation is real,” says Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability Public Participation Africa (CAPPA). “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. We do not need international financial institutions or corporations to take care of our people.”
Frontline communities and workers across the African continent have long held the expertise needed to ensure that everyone has access to water and, by extension, life. In order for their leadership to thrive, movement leaders are demanding African governments listen to water protectors, ignore pressures from the World Bank and other institutions to privatise water, and reject all privatisation schemes from profit-driven behemoths like Veolia and Suez. Organisers say that government leaders must invest in public water systems that include 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.
These demands build on the momentum of the water justice movement, which has already achieved over 300 cases of water deprivatisation around the world, including in cities such as Paris, the home of Veolia and Suez.
“Private management of the Paris water system by the multinationals Veolia and Suez failed to provide Parisians with the quality of service they deserve,” says Anne Le Strat, former deputy mayor of Paris and leader of the successful de-privatisation of Paris’ water system in 2009. “Remunicipalisation has resulted in better service with lower rates and greater public participation in governance. I stand with the African coalition ‘Our Water, Our Right’ which opposes the privatisation of water in its own communities.”
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa encourages all stakeholders to hear directly from the following African water protectors and allies:
- Akinbode Oluwafemi from Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa will share highlights from the report Africa Must Rise & Resist Water Privatisation and talk about how civil society and labour are banding together across Africa to reject privatisation.
- Dr. Everline Aketch from Public Services International will talk about the impacts of water privatisation on workers and the role of labour in the water justice movement.
- Dr. Melina Abdullah from Black Lives Matter Grassroots will locate the struggle for water justice in Africa within the context of struggles for Black liberation around the globe.
- Younoussa Abbosouka and Oumar Ba will talk about their experiences fighting water privatisation and injustice in Cameroon and Senegal, as well as the power of organising.
This event will be moderated by Aderonke Ige, Associate Director at Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa.
Speakers and key contacts related to this event are available for additional questions or comments upon request.
Philip Jakpor, Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa:
+234 803 725 6939 or [email protected]
Statements from speakers
Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)
“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. We do not need international financial institutions or corporations to take care of our people.”
Oumar Ba, Environmental engineer, Syndicat Autonomes des Travailleurs de l’Eau du Sénégal
“Everyone needs water to live. In Senegal, I have witnessed the impacts of water privatisation, and I know that Suez’s control of our water system is a threat to the future of Senegalese people. Water must be a public resource, not a privatised commodity.”
Dr. Everline Aketch, Sub-regional Secretary for English-Speaking Africa, Public Services International
“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.”
Dr. Melina Abdullah, Co-Director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots Network
“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 color all over the world through capitalist policies such as privatisation of social services, including water. So, we must stand against privatization everywhere.”
Younoussa Abbosouka, Advocacy officer, Africa Center for Advocacy, Cameroun
“Cameroon has already weathered one storm brought about by water privatisation. Now, our government must protect us from the pressure of the World Bank, which brings strong winds blowing in favor of profits, not people. Protect Cameroon, and guarantee clear skies ahead by investing in public water.”
Leonard Shang-Quartey, Coordinator, Alternative World Water Forum, Africa
“The huge failure of the attempts by World Bank and the multinational water companies to make profits off water around the globe, particularly in Europe, where there is a record number of municipalities taking back ownership and management of water, is part of the reasons they want to intensify and expand their activities in Africa. This is why the World Bank and its World Water Council want to hold the so-called World Water Forum in Africa in March of 2022 in Senegal. In Senegal, because it is one of the tiny few countries public-private investment in water is still running despite huge failures and havoc caused to people by that arrangement on the continent. Like is being done in other parts of the world, African civil society organisations must join forces and build solidarity including with elected officials to resist the water merchants.”