Category Archives: Water Privatization

African Water Resource Atlas

This video by captures geography of water resources in Africa and the water stress Africa is suffering due to rapid environmental change. Via satellite observations, UNEP was able to observe examine the decrease in arable land and increase in desert mass over the decade. They detected trend of decreasing precipitation and capricious climate change. Variable climate change in Africa is impacting quantity and quality of water resources in Africa; satellite data suggested descending water throughout African continent. Human activity is also affecting water resources in Africa. Degradation of forests is affecting river flow and impacting the livelihood of the people in African continent.  Diversion of water for irrigation is also reducing river size and even drying up rivers in some areas. The video introduces example of Kenya and Senegal which implemented innovative techniques to handle the water stress. In Senegal, farmers adopted drip irrigation technique to handle unreliable and frequent droughts. In Kenya, group of community adopted rain water harvesting method to manage scarce water challenge. I think it is important to come up with more innovative techniques and ideas that can improve current water resource management like drip irrigation and rain water harvesting methods. I also think using visual resources like this video, would help raise awareness around the globe which can impact the governments and organizations that can make real changes in the area in need.



Future steps–Is African Continent Sitting on Water Resources?

Is African Continent Sitting on Water Resources

Gushing water resources and Africa. It’s the two words that you wouldn’t easily associate. Africa continent is suffering from severe water problems. This is partly due to its extreme variability in rainfall, which cause uneven distribution of surface and ground water resources in Africa. Increasing population growth, over exploitation  climate change, and environmental degradation are all contributing factors to increase in water demand. According to the statistics by ECA (Economic Commission for Africa),  fourteen African countries are experiencing water stress and they are expecting more African countries to join the list in the next decade. However there is a research finding that suggest possible solution to the African water stress.

Recently researchers from British Geological Survey and University College London teamed up with researchers from ODI’s Water Policy program to assess the resilience of groundwater resources in Africa. To their surprise the researchers found out that Africa, a continent thought to suffer from lack of water, in fact possess vast ground water resources that could possibly sustain and abolish continent’s continued water problem.

This is an important finding since the availability and access to water resources is directly linked to country’s economic and social growth. Water is especially vital source in Africa as most Africans are heavily dependent on agriculture. Large and sustainable water mass is necessary for irrigation and development of rural infrastructure.

The researchers found that fresh water resources can be found throughout Africa at a shallow depth; they claim that these shallower water systems will be able to lift some burden from the water scarcity and shine new potentials to the persisting water stress in Africa. However, it is important that these potential resources are developed through local communities and governments rather than from outside. This discovery, although a delightful news to the water-starved communities in Africa, is also perking news to various transnational corporations advocating water privatization. Government need to gradually become less dependent on foreign aid or investment and promote water projects that can target water stress in Africa. It is advisable that local corporations, governments and civil organizations participate in developing these potential fresh water resources and promote access to water.


Three Voices Concerning Water Privatization

African Government 


(Image not related to content, Jacob Zuma,

 Although some African governments are actively cooperating with various international actors to combat water crisis in Africa, some African governments are ignoring the pertinent issue of increasing water accessibility and quality of water.  Although the governments acknowledge that vast majority of people in Africa lack access to clean water, they fail to recognize the worsening quality of water and screen indifference to the impaired water resources in Africa and other international actors promoting water privatization.

 Although water privatization is a contentious issue among many African governments, some welcome water privatization because of promised governmental subsidies and infrastructure development. Some give-in to the heavy lobbying by private water companies and the neo-liberal economic advices of the World Bank, IMF and various governments of core countries. For example, Guinean governments agreed to water privatization due to donor pressure. World Bank pressured the government to participate in water privatization project in turn of donor finances. Water privatization brought mixed result. Although it did contribute to increase in labor productivity and open job markets and increased water quality and consumer services, the water price increased rapidly and even made it difficult for the wealthy people to pay for water. Also the private sectors were less complaint with the regulations, even charging double the agreed rate, since its main goal is to make profit.

Local African Community  


(Image not related to content, charity: water)

Impact of the water privatization impacts the local communities the hardest. Making people pay for associated cost of water infrastructure leads to rocketing water price for the locals. In South Africa, with the water privatization with Suez, water service charges increased by 600 percent. Soaring price of water means even restricted access to water and large mass of African communities are responding with active resistance. Locals are joining and creating diverse resistant groups like APF (Anti-Privatization Forum) and trying to make a difference in many African water privatization projects.

For example, CAWP (Coalition Against Water Privatization in South Africa) is a community based and non-governmental organization actively advocating against water privatization in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The community members of Johannesburg challenged city’s decision to implement prepaid water meters. The organization succeeded in removing prepaid water meters and reconnecting to free water via legal actions and raising community awareness on importance of water access.

Transnational Corporations 


 (Image not related to content,

With the rising demand for water, corporate interest is rising on African water resources. Although Africa continent have been struggling to gain control over their natural resources, most of their rich natural resources are under control of core countries and now many multinational companies are advocating water privatization. Advocates argue that water privatization is necessary to provide improved quality of water to public. They argue that public utilities, such as water services, are often poorly managed and result in higher water losses in the community.

Water is viewed as a natural resource that hold potential for profit. World Bank holds Senegal’s water privatization as a success story, which succeeded in promoting well-being of the people as well as generating profit. According to the statistics, water privatization brought huge improvements for the consumers in water quantity, access and price. It also was helpful to the Senegal governments; total gains were equivalent to $457 million, that is to say average annual gain after privatization was equivalent to one-half of total revenue in the year prior to privatization.

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Globalization, World Polity Theory and Water Privatization


Water has always been an important part of human civilization and it’s becoming increasingly more so as people realize that water crisis doesn’t pertain to parts of the world, rather it is a serious problem that could negatively affect the global community. With the rising interest in water crisis in around the globe, water privatization has risen to be another hot topic attracting attention from various global actors.

Ownership of a natural resource has become a growing trend. With rapid globalization, neo-liberalism that favors free market as the most efficient method of global resource allocation has risen to be a popular model that promises economic growth and progress. Natural resources, otherwise freely provided by nature like water, is considered a commodity or a capital that could rake in profit. This “consensus” between the global Elites trickles down to the African countries, as multilateral agencies like World Bank and IMF advocate water privatization in African governments.

As African countries become more integrated into the global community, they are affected by the surging capitalism and neo-liberal ideologies that promise social well-being and economic prosperity. More African countries are beginning to implement water privatization to achieve economic stability or to maintain strategic relationship with the core actors of the global community, financial elites whom hold profit motives.


Debate Surrounding Water Privatization


Although global community and actors recognize the need to confront severe water stress in Africa, it is not an easy task to provide clean and safe water in Africa. Certainly demand for clean fresh water is high in Africa. Uneven distribution of water, due to high variability in rainfall, and recurring long droughts water resources across boarders are heightening the tension around potential disputes and conflicts over fresh water resources in Africa.

More than 60 percent of city dwellers in Africa are living in slums and many of them don’t have access to tap water. For them, water comes from the water tankers or stand pipes, which are unreliable water source that can increase the risk of hazardous water-borne disease. Many communities lack adequate infrastructure to plan long-term water management systems.  Also as most Africans are heavily dependent on agriculture, large and sustainable water mass is necessary for irrigation and development of rural infrastructure. Agriculture is most water-intensive sector of the economy. Almost 70 percent of the water resources are used for irrigation and this is worsening the water distribution for the domestic residents in Africa.

Local communities in Africa and various NGOs argue that access to clean fresh water is a serious problem that requires immediate attention from the governments and the global community which can make real differences in the livelihood of African people. Although everyone agrees on that Africa’s water crisis needs attention, their measure of bringing fresh water to Africa is proving to be a controversial issue to some African governments and global actors.

Water privatization is a hot topic in Africa. Water companies from the core countries are lining up to buy water resources in Africa. Various transnational corporations argue that with the water privatization, African countries can achieve economic wealth and necessary water related infrastructure which will benefit the quantity and the quality of water. International organizations like IMF and World Bank are also promoting water privatization by promising economic subsidies and loans for the countries that comply with water privatization.

Activist organizations are criticizing water privatization and argue that water charges will soar with the process, increasing African population with no access to clean water. Example of Ghana proves their point. With the water privatization, water charges increased by 95 percent and the activists are expecting the prices to increase by 300 percent to reach adequate “market price” necessary for the water privatization. 35 percent of the population in Ghana already lack access to water, and rocketing price of water will deprive more people from access to necessary water.