African water activists resist corporate privatization as World Bank meets –

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From left to right: Achike Chude, Vice President of the Joint Action Front, Aderonke Ige, Associate Director, CAPPA, and Philip Jakpor, Director of Programs, CAPPA.

Civil society and union activists on the platform of Our Water Our Law Africa Coalition called on African governments to reject the privatization of water and demand the return of water supply systems seized by private companies from the hands of the African people to be publicly funded and managed in a manner fair.

The coalition made the request at an international press conference on Wednesday, where the report – Africa must rise up and resist the privatization of water— was launched as part of the activities planned to mark the Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatization, which began on October 11 and will run until October 15.

The week of action coincides with the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, institutions the coalition has found among the biggest drivers of water privatization in Africa.

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The report

Africa must rise up and resist the privatization of water details how privatization has become the most powerful threat to Africans’ right to water.

He also cites the failures of water privatization in the United States, Chile and France as lessons for African governments under pressure from the World Bank and a host of multilateral financial institutions to follow the path. of privatization.

Activists voicing their demands come from Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda, representing parts of the continent currently threatened by water privatization .

Some of the groups are Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA; Utilities International, PSI; Africa Center for Advocacy, ACA and Autonomous Union of Water Workers of Senegal, among others.

They insist that although water remains one of the most basic necessities for life, giant corporations like those backed by international financial institutions like the World Bank are exploiting this basic need by trying to privatize water. across the African continent, threatening to leave millions of people suffering without water.

Activists speak

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, who detailed the need for community and union resistance to privatization, said: “No matter where you come from on this continent, the threat of water privatization is real.

“Companies and institutions like the World Bank are trying to draw water and profits out of Africa as if they have a huge straw.

“But Africans say no – our water, our right. We don’t need financial institutions or international companies to take care of our employees. “

Regarding the impacts of water privatization on workers in Africa and the role of labor in the movement it faces, Dr Everline Aketch, Sub-Regional Secretary for Anglophone Africa, PSI, said: “In as workers and citizens, we are the guardians of good governance.

“Thus, the trade union movement joins with civil society in saying that water is life.

“When governments allow the privatization of water, it means they are trying to kill our people. “

Linking the struggle for water justice in Africa to the wider Pan-African movement for the liberation of black people, Dr Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter Grassroots said: “This is an African principle that people should share and have right to the world’s resources. .

“The idea that water can be private property is a notion of white supremacy.

“Access to water should be a human right, not something held by white supremacist capitalism.

“When we say Black Lives Matter, it’s not just a fight to end state-sanctioned violence and police brutality against black people.

“It is also about any form of injustice against blacks and people of color all over the world through capitalist policies such as the privatization of social services, including water.

“So we have to oppose privatization everywhere. “

From Cameroon, Senegal

On their experiences in the fight against the privatization and injustice of water in Cameroon and Senegal, as well as on the power of organization, the Africa Center for Advocacy, Cameroon and the Autonomous Union of Water Workers of Senegal share their points of view.

Younoussa Abbosuka, Advocacy Officer, ACA, Cameroon said: “Cameroon has already weathered a storm caused by the privatization of water.

“Now our government must protect us from pressure from the World Bank, which blows strong winds in favor of profits, not people.

“Protect Cameroon and guarantee a clear sky by investing in public water”

Oumar Ba, environmental engineer (Autonomous Union of Water Workers of Senegal) insists: “Everyone needs water to live.

“In Senegal, I have witnessed the impacts of the privatization of water, and I know that private control of our water system is a threat to the future of the Senegalese people.

“Water must be a public resource, not a privatized good.”

Leonard Shang-Quartey, coordinator of the Alternative World Water Forum, Africa also outlined the World Bank’s plans to ensure that its privatization plans move forward unchallenged in Africa.

Listen to him: “The determination of the World Bank to take over Africa’s water is why the World Water Council wants to organize the so-called World Water Forum in Africa in March 2022 in Senegal, one of the few countries where public-private partnership in water is still underway despite the huge failures and havoc it has caused to people.

The Our Water Our Right Africa coalition insists that government leaders must invest in public water supply systems that include meaningful public participation in water governance.

The coalition seeks to focus particularly on the perspectives of those who are generally excluded from decision-making processes, including, but not limited to, women, low-income people and rural communities.

A position statement shared by the coalition strengthening its opposition to the privatization of water and expressing demands on governments, businesses and institutions has been endorsed by more than 100 organizations around the world.

Solidarity declarations

Some dignitaries sent messages of solidarity in support of the struggle of rights activists and unions against the privatization of water.

Teacher. Sofiri Joab-Petersiden from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, wrote: “If water is life, then the commodification of water is the commodification of life.

“We must stand up and say a categorical no to the commodification of water in Africa.

“Access to water is a right and as such African governments must respect, protect and fulfill the right to water for all Africans and make the necessary investments to develop the water sector.

Anne Le Strat, former deputy mayor of Paris and president of Eau de Paris: “The private management of the Paris water network by multinationals has not enabled Parisians to benefit from the quality of service they deserve.

“Remunicipalisation has resulted in better service with lower prices and greater public participation in governance.

“I side with the African coalition” Our water, our right “which opposes the privatization of water in its own communities,” said Anne Le Strat, who led the remunicipalisation in 2009.

Philip Alston: United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (2014-2020): “Privatization has become a mantra in Africa and beyond.

“But the facts, if we take the trouble to study them, clearly show that in most cases, it is more expensive, leads to a service for many fewer people, puts the service out of reach of democratic actors. and the courts, and puts people with low incomes at a distinct disadvantage. groups.

“But privatization is strongly encouraged because it is extremely profitable for the private sector and allows governments to shed some of the responsibilities they once had.”

Léo Heller: United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights to drinking water and sanitation (2014-2020): “The privatization of water and sanitation services has led to serious risks of human rights violations around the world, motivated by the emphasis on profit maximization and power asymmetry.

“States must do everything possible to fulfill their obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights to water and sanitation, especially for historically marginalized populations.

“I stand in solidarity with the Our Water, Our Right Africa coalition as it resists privatization and pleads for a fairer path.

Congressman Gwen Moore: United States Congress: “This week, community and union leaders across the African continent are sounding the alarm bells about the widespread threat of water privatization in their communities.

“This issue has been close to my heart since I called on the World Bank, one of the main drivers of privatization in the global South, to end its promotion of water privatization in 2016.

“As the World Bank begins its annual meetings this week and governments around the world reflect on how to rebuild in the years to come, the work of the Our Water, Our Right coalition in Africa could not be more critical.

“These organizers saw first-hand the devastating impact privatization has had on communities and workers around the world, and I stand with them to defend the human right to water for all.

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