‘Privatization brings the rain’

A new African Water Network was launched at the WSF to co-ordinate opposition to ‘water privatization in all its forms’. ‘Today we celebrate the birth of this network to resist the theft of our water, tomorrow we will celebrate access to clean water for all!’ announced Virginia Setshedi of the South African Coalition Against Water Privatization.

Water privatization programmes in Africa have proved almost universally disastrous and costly. In one case, City Water, partially owned by Britain’s Biwater, is suing the Tanzanian Government after its contract was revoked. Officials pulled the plug due to concerns about the quality of the service. ‘Privatization has resulted in higher water bills and, in some cities, these have been compounded by large-scale disconnections of those who cannot pay,’ said Al-Hassan Adam from the Ghana Coalition Against Water Privatization. ‘Yet the World Bank and donor governments stubbornly continue to promote privatization by attaching conditions to debt relief, aid and loans.’

Not only that, but Western agencies have been funding widespread pro-privatization propaganda, at times reaching dizzying heights of absurdity. In Tanzania, British free market think-tank The Adam Smith Institute – with funding from the UK Department for International Development – produced a $450-million pro-privatization PR campaign. This included a pop song in Kiswahili with these lyrics: ‘Young plants need rain, businesses need investment. Our old industries are like dry crops. Privatization brings the rain.’

mag cover This article is from the April 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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