CIVIL Society Organisations (CSOs) and community activists opposed attempts by multinational companies to commodify water in African countries at a high-level meeting held up mark the 2022 World Water Day in Dakar, Senegal.
The subject was one of the major talking points on the occasion of the 2022 World Water Day with a focus on underground drinking supplies, watershed management and a host of other related issues.
The theme for the 2022 World Water Day is “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible”.
Hundreds of civil society, labour and community activists in Dakar under the auspices of Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition (OWORAC) said water privatisation schemes backed by corporate entities will threaten access to water for the vulnerable.
OWORAC is a group of activists from Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda amongst other countries working collaboratively to push back against threats of water privatisation in Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the group at the event, Akinbode Oluwafemi of Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) said the right to water is compulsory for citizens and such rights should not be put for sale.
“In the spirit of the World Water Day 2022 commemoration, it is imperative for African governments to be on the watch and refuse to be used to jeopardise the rights of their citizens to satisfy the greed of the water behemoths.
“As private water executives and financiers descend on the continent for the World Water Forum, we are reminded of the legacies of colonialism inherent in the current world order. This is not 1884, Africa is not for sale,” he said.
He said their position is to counter false ‘solutions’ espoused by the corporate-backed World Water Forum (WWF) which is held in Dakar, where multinational Suez’s large-scale water privatisation scheme is failing communities and workers.
Globally, it is estimated that 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year, according to United Nations, (UN).
The Oakland Institute has published a separate study showing that big agricultural commodity companies from overseas are seeing a major opportunity in Africa.
Researchers studied 15 cases of large-scale agricultural projects in 11 African countries, where big companies were given rights to land and water extraction.
The report warned that in many cases, far from seeing benefits from the development, local people were often disadvantaged. “When irrigation infrastructure is established, it benefits private firms for large-scale agriculture, often for export crops, instead of local farmers and communities,” the report says.
Comrade Sani Baba of the Public Services International (PSI), identified various failed water privatisation projects on the continent, pointing out that parading privatisation of water as a solution to the water availability problem in Africa poses grave dangers to universal access.
“Privatisation is fast becoming the new colonialism on the African soil, and the gathering of corporate elites and privatisers on the African soil, in Senegal this year again is telling. Now, more than ever before is when African citizens must rise and resist the neocolonialism which commodification of water represents,” he said.
In 2021, OWORAC exposed private water multinationals like Veolia and Suez’s push, backed up by international financial institutions to take over Africa’s water systems with the sole purpose of profiteering without recourse to water as a human right.
Akinbode also stated that the World Bank promoted the “Public-Private Partnership’’ (PPP) model of water privatisation in the country, which is a ploy to ensure corporate multinational firms control Nigeria’s public water system.
Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and Uganda are also countries where the threat of privatisation looms.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.