Original Research

Privatisation and water governance in Africa: implications of a rights-based approach

Oladejo Olowu
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 4, No 1 | a174 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v4i1.174 | © 2008 Oladejo Olowu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2016 | Published: 11 April 2008

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Oladejo Olowu, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa

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Early in the post-independence era, the control of water resources in many African states was a task of central planning. Regrettably, water management soon became a miry adventure in most African states largely because of warped planning and implementation. This article examines the phenomenon of private sector involvement in water resources management and seeks to understand the effect of such involvement on the right to water in Africa in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. The article explores the continuing relationship between African governments and non-state actors in the management of water resources in the privatisation age. The article further analyses the role of various national water governance initiatives vis-à-vis the efficient management of water resources and the sharp contradictions in their frameworks from a rights-based perspective. It evaluates the normative frameworks of access to water as a human right in Africa and contends that the human being must be placed at the centre of water discourses in assessing all role actors and their responsibilities. Extrapolating from experiences from various states within and outside Africa, this article advocates a rights-based approach to water issues and its value for the ultimate purpose of human- centred development.


Water governance; decentralisation; privatisation; multi-national enterprises (MNEs); Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); rights-based approach; Sub-Saharan Africa


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