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Water Privatization, Ghana

One more example of the false promises of better performances under the private sector in water management. National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water advocates for increased public investment in the sector


Water policy in Ghana – the first independent sub-Saharan African country, and one of the first to be targeted by privatization policies, has undergone a slow but radical change over the years. During the 1980s, the Rawlings regime saw external funders, especially the World Bank and the IMF, directing the restructuring of the Ghanaian economy as a condition for receiving loans. Water reforms in the 1980s included sacking staff in the publicly owned Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation (GWSC), attempts to curb non-revenue water and an emphasis on ‘cost recovery’, which later would lead to 95 percent increase in water tariffs in May 2001. By 1999, the GWSC had been replaced by the Ghana Water Company Ltd. While 100% state owned, it was not responsible for rural water services nor for sewage disposal, as these were not seen profitable enough. According to On the Commons project, "In the same year, the World Bank’s plans snarled up on the issue of national sovereignty: the government objected to the accusation of corrupt tendering practices, and the World Bank withdrew its US$100 million loan – but with an eye to elections the following year." In fact, the new New Patriotic Party government resulted to be much more in favour of the World Bank’s ‘reforms’ than Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress, and organized an international tender for the [public-private partnership] lease contract. In March 2000, the government of Ghana awarded a 30-year Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract for one half of the country, including the capital Accra, to the US company Azurix, a subsidiary of Enron. The move met with the opposition of residents and national organizations. In 2001, 9 transnational corporations were shortlisted.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Water Privatization, Ghana
Location of conflict:Ghana
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

After the privatization the level of service was reduced and the per capita demand went from 45 to 20 litres of water per day. The supply of drinking water at national level - non-municipal areas - decreased from 46 percent of the population in 1992 to 30 percent in 1998. In 2002, the Government of Ghana estimated that around 66 percent of urban residents, and only 37 percent of rural residents, had access to drinking water.

Project area:2500000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:1990
Company names or state enterprises:The Ghana Water Company Limited from Ghana
Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd. (AVRL) from Ghana
Vitens from Netherlands
Rand Water from South Africa
Ghana Urban Water Company Limited
Relevant government actors:Community Water and Sanitation Agency , New Patriotic Party
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
International Monetary Fund (FMI)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National Coalition Against Water Privatisation (NCAP), Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Ghana Tradeunion Congress (TUC), African Water Network (AWN), Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP), Food&Water Watch, Transnational Institute
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Under negotiation
Project cancelled
Development of alternatives:The non-privatization of the water in Ghana,
public and participated management of water resources, which can ensure a good and equal access to water, sanitation, etc.
Increased government spending in water sector, capturing resources from tax regulation of other extraction activities
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:After a 5 year contract signed in 2006, the government decided not to extend it in 2011, saying that the private operator had not lived up to expectations, constantly failing to meet its obligations stipulated in its contract with Ghanaian government. Finally State-owned companies provide the water services again.
However, it is not clear whether the intention of the Government is to make a contract with other companies.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

The 310 Act

The Guardian - Proof is piling up that private sector finance is not an easy development fix
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

AA.VV., Privatizzare i servizi. Il costo sociale, EMI, 2003 (in Italian)
[click to view]

Bersani Marco, Acqua in movimento. Ripubblicizzare un bene comune, Alegre, 2007 (in Italian)
[click to view]

Campagna per la riforma della Banca Mondiale, Manitese, Il pubblico, il privato e i perdenti. I falsi miti della privatizzazione dellíacqua, Pubblishock (in Italian)

Declaration by the African organizations at the alternative world water forum, Marseille 2012
[click to view]

'Subaltern strategies and development practice: urban water privatization in Ghana', Ian Yeboah, The Geographical Journal, 172: 1, 50–65, March 2006
[click to view]

'The Age Of Commodity: Water Privatization In Southern Africa', Ed. David Alexander McDonald, Greg Ruiter
[click to view]

'Dispossessing H2O: the contested terrain of water privatization' by Erik Swyngedouw, 16 : 1, 2005 Capitalism Nature Socialism
[click to view]

'The new face of conditionalities: The World Bank and water privatization in Ghana', Amenga Etego R.N. & Grusky S., 2005 D.A. Mcdonald & G. Ruiters (eds)

Water privatization in Ghana, Christian Aid
[click to view]

Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP)

World Bank Conditionality in Water Sector Privatization - Cases from Ghana and the Philippines
[click to view]

AA.VV., Nello spirito di Cochabamba (Bolivia), Narmada (India), Ghana e delle altre lotte, Dichiarazione sull acqua del II Forum Sociale Mondiale, Poligrafiche San Marco, 2005 (in Italian)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

'Open Letter to Africa Union Chairman on the Occasion of 11th Ordinary Session of the Assembly' by the African Water Network
[click to view]

On the Commons, 'Ghana Rejects Water Privatization'
[click to view]

Isodec webpage
[click to view]

'Africa: trapped in water privatization', by blogger Sokari Ekine
[click to view]

Water privatization in Ghana, Christian Aid
[click to view]

Water supply & sanitation in Ghana, Wikipedia
[click to view]

Water privatization in Ghana, Wikipedia
[click to view]

Water privatization in Africa: the case of Ghana
[click to view]

IRC webpage
[click to view]

Aguas Rios y Pueblos
[click to view]

Post Privatisation Challenges of Public Water in Ghana, 23 June 2014
[click to view]

GHANA: Privatised water should at least flow from the taps, IRIN, 25/02/2004
[click to view]

[1] TNI - Post Privatisation Challenges of Public Water in Ghana
[click to view]

Ghana's new monitoring framework for monitoring services provided and sustained, September 2014
[click to view]

Urban water management in Ghana and cycle of wrong policy prescriptions - improving on the institutional responsiveness of GWCL, 15/03/2014
[click to view]

On The Commons Project - Ghana Rejects Water Privatization
[click to view]

Water privatization in Ghana, Agua Rios y Pueblos, June 2012
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Remunicipalisation: Putting Water Back into Public Hands
[click to view]

Ghana, Water in Accra
[click to view]

Other documents

Korle Lagoon river, transformed into a waste dump Agua rios y Pueblos
[click to view]

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl and Daniela Del Bene
Last update19/01/2016
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