PRESS STATEMENT – Commemorating World Water Day 2024: Current Water Sector Policies Impeding Access to Water in Africa

Commemorating World Water Day 2024: Current Water Sector Policies Impeding Access to Water in Africa

22nd March 2024

The Africa Water Justice Network, on the occasion of World Water Day 2024, underscores the critical importance of addressing the pressing water crisis plaguing our continent. Despite decades of efforts and the implementation of policies prescribed by international financial institutions like the World Bank, millions of Africans still lack access to clean and safe drinking water. This failure cannot be overlooked, and it demands urgent action.

Figures shared in the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s progress report starkly highlight the grim reality: the number of Africans living without access to basic drinking water services has risen to 387 million in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, a significant increase from 350 million people in 2000. It is evident that the current approach, particularly the World Bank’s policy of privatization, has not only failed but exacerbated the crisis.

The policy of water privatization, driven by a misguided emphasis on financial sustainability over human rights and public health, has neglected the most vulnerable populations. Instead of prioritizing the fundamental right to water, governments, under the influence of international financial institutions, have pursued privatization schemes that burden citizens with exorbitant costs and perpetuate inequality.

We cannot ignore the consequences of this approach: widespread social unrest, conflicts, and violations of human rights are becoming increasingly common across African cities. Clashes between law enforcement and citizens over water access in Cape Town, Dakar, Lagos, Accra, Nairobi, and Harare serve as painful reminders of the failures of current policies. Additionally, we also see the impact of the policy of privatisation on women and girls who are forced to fill in the gap abdicated by governments to supply homes with water.

On this World Water Day with the appropriate theme of “Water for Peace”, the Africa Water Justice Network calls for a rejection of the policy of water financialisation governments. We urge African governments to prioritize peace, communal tranquility, and human rights in their approach to water governance. Water is not merely a commodity; it is a basic human right essential for life and dignity.

To address the water crisis effectively, we propose the following recommendations:

  1. Investment in Public Infrastructure: Governments must allocate increased budgetary resources towards building and maintaining public water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean and safe drinking water.
  2. Community Participation: Policies should prioritize community-driven solutions that empower local populations to manage and govern their water resources, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability.
  3. Regulation and Oversight: Governments must enact robust regulatory frameworks to oversee water services, ensuring that they are accessible, affordable, and of high quality.
  4. Partnerships for Equity: Foster partnerships among public water utilities and between public and communities to build capacities for improvement of services.
  5. Recognition of Indigenous Rights: Respect the rights of indigenous communities to access and manage water resources in accordance with their cultural practices and traditions.

As we mark World Water Day 2024, let us reaffirm our commitment to achieving water justice for all Africans. It is only through collective action, informed by principles of equity and human rights, that we can overcome the challenges facing our continent.

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Leonard Shang-Quartey


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 About the Africa Water Justice Network:

The Africa Water Justice Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to promoting water justice in Africa. Our mission is to ensure equitable access to clean and safe water for all and to advocate for the protection of water resources and the rights of communities that rely on them.

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