Two thousand liters of oil leaked into the water supply in Osorno, Chile, leaving over 140,000 people without access to water for 10 days.
Residents in the coastal town of Plymouth, Massachusetts experienced streams of raw sewage and untreated wastewater spilling into their town, including the Plymouth Harbor.
And the city of Pittsburgh came face to face with the fact that there was dangerous amounts of lead in their water supply, putting the health of residents–especially children–at serious risk.
These are just a few examples of what communities face when the control of their water or wastewater systems are signed over to corporations like Suez and Veolia. With the flick of a pen, the focus of a utility shifts from providing universal water access to maximising shareholder profits. And this shift in focus often comes with rate hikes and reductions in staffing, infrastructure neglect, and corner-cutting on processes that are crucial to ensuring access to safe, clean water for all.
Many communities are at risk of water privatisation, but the African continent, which has always been treated as a golden opportunity for the extraction of profits, resources, and labour, is especially attractive for the expansion goals of transnational private water corporations like Suez and Veolia. That’s why, this week, with the Our Water, Our Right Africa Coalition, we’re demanding an end to all water privatisation projects on the continent.
Known as the Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation, this mass mobilisation brings together organisers across the African continent to host local actions and virtual events centered on the demand for clean, safe, public water for all.
Here are a few ways that you can learn more about what’s at stake and get involved in the movement to protect people’s right to water in Africa and around the world.
Hear from water justice organisers in Corporate Accountability’s latest podcast episode
There are few things that we all need to survive, and one of them is water.
Lena Greenberg, host and producer, reminds us of this truth in the latest episode of Subvert, Corporate Accountability’s podcast. Throughout the recording, Lena shares more details about how corporations like Veolia and Suez secure privatisation deals, including “public private partnerships” or PPPs, and the horror that unfolds as these corporations extract profits from this essential service. They also delve into the role of the World Bank in driving forward privatisation. For decades, this international financial institution, which is holding its annual meetings this week, has pushed an agenda of austerity, deregulation, and privatisation in the Global South, overwhelmingly to the benefit of transnational corporations based in the Global North. You’ll also hear from me, alongside labour leaders who work to keep our water systems running.
Learn the history of water privatisation in Africa and demand a new path forward
Corporate executives and decision makers who push for privatisation in Africa often frame the approach as a new solution to an old problem. But privatisation is not a new approach. It’s been tried in several places throughout the continent before, leaving the public with more infrastructure and access issues than before.
No matter how much the industry and World Bank tries to gloss over or deny the failures of water privatisation, these stories are well documented. “Africa Must Rise & Resist Water Privatisation,” a new report published by The Our Water, Our Right Africa Coalition, delves into the history of water privatisation in Africa and its drivers.The report also highlights the threats of private water corporations taking over systems across the continent — from Kenya to Mozambique to my hometown of Lagos, Nigeria–and the ways that people have successfully fought back.
Stand in solidarity with water activists in Africa
The threat that this industry poses to water access in Africa cannot be overstated. And together, we can expose the damage that these privatisation schemes have already caused, and move decision-makers to keep PPPs out of our communities.
International support is crucial for ensuring that African governments, institutional decision-makers, and corporate executives hear this message. Together, we hold immense power to ensure that governments protect people’s right to water by protecting water systems around the world — and especially in Africa — from abusive transnational corporations.