Monique Ménard-Kilrane | International Solidarity

Around the world, workers and community members are organizing to protect water services and resources, including in Cameroon where water services are back in house after 10 years of privatization.  

The government of Cameroon ended privatization in 2018, but the World Bank and other international players are pushing hard for a new public-private partnership (P3) for drinking water distribution.  

The Cameroon National Autonomous Union of Energy Water and Mines Workers Union (SYNATEEC) and Public Services International (PSI) are leading a national campaign to keep water public. They have built alliances with other unions and community groups through the Cameroon Public Water network.  

Fatou Diouf, PSI Coordinator for French-speaking Africa, explains that the campaign aims “to ensure all Cameroonians have access to enough good-quality water, as a universal right. The best way to achieve this is for the company that manages the water to be public. The state cares about access to water and the state cares about water quality. Any company that comes to Cameroon is there to make a profit, and this profit will be made on the backs of Cameroonians.”

Cameroonians have lived the impacts of privatization, including poor-quality water that led to illness, and the elimination of free water fountains in low-income neighborhoods. Women and children had to fetch water daily instead of working or going to school.  

The network members have creative ways of mobilizing the public, ensuring their message is heard loud and clear. SYNATEEC and its allies have connected with churches, traditional chiefs and municipal associations to spread the word.  

The network also engaged students through an online contest inviting students to post speeches about keeping water public, a tactic Diouf says helped to broaden their audience. Water worker union president Chief Ewoukem boosted media attention by reaching out directly to journalists as workers, through their unions, ensuring journalists learned about the issues. 

The Cameroon Public Water network plans to ramp up advocacy efforts and continue working closely with community members to keep privatization off the radar. 

CUPE is working with PSI to support this campaign and strengthen worker-to-worker connections with SYNATEEC members. Read more about other CUPE international solidarity projects at