By Edu Abade
Governments of African nations have been charged to be wary of and steer clear of all inducements from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and their fronts to privatise the provision of water in Nigeria and on the entire continent.
Civil society organisations, labour, community activists and advocates for functional public utilities in Nigeria and Africa made the call in Lagos on the sidelines of the World Water Day 2023 under the auspices of the Our Water, Our Right Africa Coalition (OWORAC) with the theme: Accelerate Change, insisting that previous attempts to put the provision of potable water in the hands of private concerns had proved disastrous and a huge failure even in more developed climes.
They called on local, national and regional leaders to heed the lessons of history by abandoning the false solutions of water privatisation under any guise once and for all.
The OWORAC, comprising activists and trade unionists in Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda among other African countries, condemned the alarming rise of neocolonial efforts to turn over control of essential services to multinational corporations under Private Public Partnership (PPPs) which seek to exploit citizens’ need for water to profit.
“It is abundantly clear, from the decades of failed experiments with water privatisation, that we must accelerate change away from this exploitative model and towards public ownership and control. We must also accelerate public investments and ensure accountability of public officials who hold an obligation to serve the interests of the masses, not the privileged few.
“This week, as governments, civil society and the corporate sector convene in New York City for the United Nations Water Conference the daily realities of the water crisis are felt by hundreds of millions throughout the African continent,” they posited.
Insisting that the continued role of water privatising corporations and their representatives in shaping the agenda and priorities of the UN Water Conference and UN Water more broadly undermine the legitimacy on the African continent, they pointed out that the involvement of AquaFed, the organisation representing the abusive industry on the world stage, in coordinating World Water Day is inappropriate and must end.
“Preventing corporate capture is essential if the continent is to meet the Strategic Development Goal 6 which advocates for availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by year 2030.
“Like other countries in Africa, Nigeria is under threat of water privatisation at state and federal levels. Activists have been battling plans by the Nigerian government to privatize water via an unpopular and widely criticised National Water Resources Bill.
“The OWORAC, which launched in October 2021 in response to the deepening global water crisis and disaster capitalism which the pandemic opened the floodgates to, detailed the real world impacts of water privatisation on communities in its report titled: Africa Must Rise And Resist Water Privatisation.
“Disturbing accounts of the abuses of multinational corporations such as Veolia and Suez, both members of AquaFed, have led communities across the continent to reject water privatisation in its many forms, including so-called “public-private partnerships.”
Speaking, Executive Director, Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “The theme of this year’s World Water Day commemoration reinforces the need for governments to look unto proven solutions to the water crisis on the continent within the realm of democratic community controlled and publicly funded options. Water privatisation is a failed option which only puts profits above people.”
Regional Secretary for Africa and Arab Countries at global union federation Public Services International (PSI), Sani Baba, said: “Water privatisation robs communities of their right to life and wellbeing in the same way it also robs workers of their right to decent work. African governments must refuse to pander to the dictates of the World Bank and other institutions that want to colonise our water resources.”
Others who spoke in favour of functional public water infrastructure, including the Secretary, Lagos State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Achike Chude of the Joint Action Front (JAF) and Aderonke Ige of CAPPA, restated the need to resist governments’ attempt to privatise water, stressing: “Water is life, which is why the United Nations (UN) declared it a fundamental human right in 2010.”
The focus of the 2023 World Water Day is on accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis. The global campaign tagged: Be The Change, “encourages people to act in their own lives to change the way they use, consume and manage water.”