African in Connected Struggle Against Water Privatization


Every human has a fundamental right to safe water. This universal truth is rooted in the unique role that water plays in the daily lives of people; from the most basic use of water to its broader significance which shapes our socio-cultural needs, including the performance of religious and cultural rites such as ablution, baptism, and traditional festivals centred around the sanctity of water.

When this human right is not fulfilled and protected, people pay the price. People pay with their health, women and girls pay by sacrificing  formal education in order to procure water, and people even pay with their lives. Unfortunately, there is an entire industry that aims to exploit our  water need for  profit only.

The continent of Africa has become a major target for corporations and institutions seeking to extract profit from our natural resources and essential services, at the expense of the African peoples, and especially poor communities, women and girls, and those living in rural areas.

Multibillion-dollar corporations and their wealthy shareholders, mostly based in the Global North, have made riches from privatising community water systems across the globe.

Water privatisation transfers ownership or control of a water system from a public entity to a private one, most often a for-profit corporation. This can take the form of an asset sale, long-term lease or affermage, so-called “public-private partnerships” (PPPs), and the most recent thinly-veiled rhetoric of “private sector participation.”

In January 2020, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs: Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights; Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and the Right to Non-discrimination; and Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation noted that “There is a clear risk of water privatization shifting the focus of water management from service provision for all residents to ensuring more reliable services for the well-off while generating handsome profits for the private suppliers.”

There is no question that water systems throughout the world need robust investment. Privatisation is often touted as a way to bring in these much needed funds. However, research shows that the driving force behind water infrastructure investment in the last several decades has been dedicated public funding, not privatisation arrangements.

Cases from across the world show that privatisation has failed communities, strained public accounts, and exacerbated existing water crises and inequities. For communities, this takes the form of unaffordable tariff hikes, labour abuses and job cuts, and cost-cutting that puts public health at risk. For states, this takes the form of broken promises, deferred investment and maintenance, and legal obstacles to regulating in the public interest or terminating failed contracts.

As part of our campaign, we recognise the centrality of community power in protecting human rights from predatory actors. In our collective effort to build community awareness and empowerment, the OWORAC is embarking on our second annual Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation.

With the theme:  “Holding Hands to protect Africa against Corporate capture, the 2023 Africa Week Against Water Privatization will focus on the connected struggles of African communities to actualise their right to water and fend off water privatisers.

The 2023 Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatization

Theme: Holding Hands to protect Africa against Corporate Capture.

The 2023 Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatization will bring to the fore and connect the struggles of local communities in 10 African countries confronting threats of water privatisation. Communities will share their stories, their challenges and how they have mobilized and continue to resist water privatisation. The week of action is planned for October 9-13, 2023, with the theme: “Holding Hands to protect Africa against Corporate capture.

  • Amplify push back actions against water privatization by communities across the African continent.
  • Bolster the movement for the human right to water in Africa by reinforcing the relationship between communities and civil society and labour in 10 African countries to project a collective vision for water justice.
  • Recruit new allies to strengthen the Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition

Connect anti-water privatisation campaigns in 10 African countries

Shoulder to shoulder partnership of communities working in solidarity with labour & civil society to challenge water privatisation

  • Successful pushbacks/ Sustained resistance
  • Informed, Educated & Enlightened citizenry
  • Policy change: Pro-people water policy / Legislation
  • People power projected