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Our Water, Our Right: CSOs, unionists warn African leaders against water privatisation

L-R: Zikora Ibeh, policy and research officer, CAPPA; Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA boss; and Abiodun Bakare official of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Technical, Recreational and Employee Services (AUPCTRE) at the press confrence in Lagos on Monday.

. To send protest letter to leadership of regional groups

‘The capital pillage of Africa’s waters, masquerading as innovative solutions, is a crime against the people and its unacceptable’

By Valentine Amanze

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and trade unionists have warned African leaders, including those representing the African Union, ECOWAS, SADC, EAC and ECCAS, not to yield to the pressure from the developed countries, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to privatise water in Africa.

They reminded the African leaders that succumbing to the Western threat tantamounts to denial of citizens their right to water.

They also assured that they would officially appeal to the leadership of regional groups in the continent such as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (AU) and others to discard the water privatisation agenda of the Western world.

The groups, on the platform of “Our Water, Our Right African Coalition (OWORAC)”, made the call while celebrationg its third annual Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation through Grassroots Community Sensitization and Stakeholder Engagement on Monday October 9, 2023, which conincided with World Bank and IMF annual general meetings in Morocco.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Holding Hands to Protect Africa’s Water from Corporate Capture,” which centred on the need for collaboration by government, civil society, and grassroots communities in confronting privatization and privatization threats.

The Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa and member of OWORAC, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, who spoke in Lagos on Monday, condemned privatization of water anywhere in the world.

His words: “Water is not a commodity to be traded, bartered or sold to the highest bidder.

“The rich countries of the global north must stop funding neocolonial commodification practices in global south countries, especially in Africa; disguised as benevolent development aid and interventions.

“The capital pillage of Africa’s waters, masquerading as innovative solutions is a crime against the people and its unacceptable.’’

Also read: Why CAPPA, communities kick against covert privatisation agenda in USAID-Lagos Water Corporation partnership

The CAPPA boss also wondered why World Bank and IMF would be having their meetings in in Marrakech, Morocco, when community leaders were celebrating and working to protect the human right to water.

“The fact that these meetings – organized by two of the institutional architects of the rampant corporate capture seen across the global South – are taking place on the continents for the first time in 50 years and despite the devastating earthquake, which occurred in the country just two months prior, indicates a sharpened focus on shaping the future of Africa in the image of corporate control,” he said.

Corroborating, Sani Baba Mohammed, the Public Services International’s Regional Secretary of Africa & Arab Countries, said, “Corporate greed has turned Africa’s water into blue gold mines, deepening inequalities and leaving communities parched, even when surrounded by an abundance that is rightfully theirs.

 “This is the shameful failure of market-centric water management approaches. Only community-driven solutions rooted in democratic decision-making and control of water resources for public good can guarantee water access, equality, accountability, and security of jobs.’’

Besides, Everline Akech, the sub-regional secretary for English-speaking Africa for Public Services International, kicked against water privatization in Africa.

She said, “Commodification of water in Africa will come at a huge price and that price wil 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 also children who will be severly dehydrated from unquenchable thirst’’.

In the face of the challenges of lack of access to water and emerging privatization threats, the OWORAC stood in solidarity with all impacted communities across Africa, insisting that “together with our people, we insist that the democratic and inclusive management of of Africas water resources and systems is non-negotiable. We reject the commodification of this essential life source and speak in united voices that the right and access to water for every African is not for sale.

“Our governments have a crucial role to play in this regard. More than ever before, the OWORAC is determined to ensure that the water remains a shared heritage, a public good, and a fundamental human right, now for all generations to come.”

Recall that the failures of private water multinationals such as Veoila and Suez are well-documented around the globe and across the African continent, ranging from unaffordable water tariffs to labour abuses. Despite this, international instituitions led by the World Bank and global north agencies including USAID continue to use their power and influence to steer African governments towards this false solution.

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