Water is life, but it is also big business. Over the last 20 years activists and scholars have noted an alarming rise in the financialization of water; that is, water, and the infrastructure to manage and deliver it, is made into something that financiers can invest in to make a profit while ignoring the underlying social and material realities of water itself. This happens in a number of ways, from the privatization of public water systems to public-private partnerships for urban resilience, to new financial products to profit from water provision, like water-themed financial derivatives. The intersection of worsening climate change and the pandemic’s economic effects make the financialization of water particularly worrying. Climate change is making weather less predictable, leading to all sorts of disruptions to local water systems, while African countries are facing serious economic challenges, including high levels of debt, costly public health measures, economic slow-down with high unemployment, and looming turbulence in exchange rates-all of which will make public investment in water even more challenging. It is a perfect storm for financiers to exploit.
Click here to read this primer on water finalization in Africa prepared by the Climate and Community Project, the McHard Center and the Blue Planet Project for the 2022 Alternative World Water Forum.