Leonard Shang-Quartey, Coordinator of Africa Water Justice Network
Leonard Shang-Quartey, Coordinator of Africa Water Justice Network

World Water Day: Current water sector policies impeding access to water in Africa

The Africa Water Justice Network, a coalition of organisations and individuals dedicated to promoting water justice in Africa, believes that the policy of water privatisation, driven by a misguided emphasis on financial sustainability over human rights and public health, has neglected the most vulnerable populations from having access to potable water.


The coalition in a statement signed and issued by its Coordinator, Leonard Shang-Quartey, dated Friday, 22 March 2024, to mark this year’s International Water Day, said "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."

For the group, "This failure cannot be overlooked, and it demands urgent action," stressing that “Instead of prioritising the fundamental right to water, governments, under the influence of international financial institutions, have pursued privatisation schemes that burden citizens with exorbitant costs and perpetuate inequality,” he said.

He expressed the concern that figures shared in the World Health Organisation and UNICEF's progress report paint grimy situation, saying “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.”

For Mr Shang-Quartey, “It is evident that the current approach, particularly the World Bank's policy of privatisation, has not only failed but exacerbated the crisis.”

He has, therefore, called on the governments to allocate increased budgetary resources towards building and maintaining public water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean and safe drinking water.

Similarly, he noted, policies on water should prioritise community-driven solutions that empower local populations to manage and govern their water resources, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability.

“Governments must enact robust regulatory frameworks to oversee water services, ensuring that they are accessible, affordable, and of high quality,” Mr Shang-Quartey noted. 

He further called on the government to foster partnerships among public water utilities and between public and communities to build capacities for improvement of services.

Respect the rights of indigenous communities to access and manage water resources in accordance with their cultural practices and traditions.

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