Water privatisation: Senegal at the crossroads

By Olivier Petitjean and Elimane Diouf

, by Pambazuka

This article is part of a special issue on water and water privatisation in Africa produced as a joint initiative of the Transnational Institute, Ritimo and Pambazuka News. This special issue is also being published in French.

While the Senegalese government wishes to ‘disengage financially from the water sector’, it is precisely the previous public management of water that has begun to improve infrastructure and people’s access to the resource.

The water service in the Senegalese cities has been partially privatised since 1996 under the form of a lease contract between the state and the Sénégalaise des eaux (SDE). 51 per cent of the capital of the latter is held by SAUR, renamed FINAGETION in 2005. It is a subsidiary of the Bouygues group, the fourth-largest group in the global water sector. Water management in Senegal is often presented as a ‘model’ public–private partnership (PPP), particularly by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions, all of who have been trying to promote various forms of water privatisation for decades. According to them, the lease contract with SAUR has significantly improved access to water for urban populations, explaining that the country is one of the only ones in the African continent to be in a good way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in regard to access to water, at least in urban areas (as they often forget to specify).

In an international context marked by the spectacular and repeated failures of water transnational corporations that have sought since the 1990s to take root in the cities of the global South, Senegal has therefore an emblematic character for the proponents of PPPs.

Recently the Senegalese government has however announced unilaterally that the contract that bound it to SAUR would not be renewed, and that in April 2011 there would be a tender for the total concession of water service, which would take place in 2012–13.

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