Local politics and the regulation of global water suppliers in South Africa

B Morgan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

262 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter explores the changing incentives faced by global water companies in light of the political and legal struggle in South Africa over the growing trend of supplying urban drinking water on a commercial, for-profit basis, often by multinational corporations. It traces the changes in rules and institutions in three spheres - global, national and local - affecting the strategies and behaviour of companies in the water services sector. The case of South Africa is an especially interesting intersection of these three levels due to its relatively high level of state capacity and fiscal autonomy, its formal constitutional commitment to a human right to water, and the historical legacy of powerful politically organised civil society, actually existing extremely low or non-existent social provision for communities of colour, and strong political will to provide universal access to water. The chapter argues that at the global level, key actors involved in funding, managing, regulating and consuming water services are constructing a policy of corporate welfarism in water provision, with three facets: fiscal, administrative, and ideological. This intersects with a national-level legislative and regulatory policy approach that uneasily combines what I call 'political' and 'transactional' frameworks for the provision of water services, frameworks that are in significant tension with each other. Finally, locally-based resistance in the townships and peri-urban areas to the implementation of key aspects of the national framework has important implications for the viability of corporate water welfarism. Global water companies have responded with strategies of 'soft consumerism', which are likely to only very partially, if at all, alleviate the substantive political conflict regarding larger structural issues underlying the demands for greater political participation by local actors.
Translated title of the contributionLocal politics and the regulation of global water suppliers in South Africa
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaking Global Self-Regulation Effective in Developing Countries
EditorsDL Brown, N Woods
PublisherOxford University Press
Pages201 - 226
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9780199234639
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Other identifier: 0199234639


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