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Published September 13, 2017 | Version v1
Journal article Open

The nexus of water and socio-spatial inequality in sub- Saharan Africa: legacies, strands and agenda for research

  • 1. University of Uyo, Nigeria
  • 2. Kyoto University, Japan


WATERLAT-GOBACIT Working Papers (ISSN 2056-4864 - online) Vol. 4 No 2, pp. 41-77. (

This article explores the dynamic relationship between society and access to water resources. It addresses the question of how the various mechanisms of power manifested through the cultural systems, institutional processes and social relations shape people’s abilities to gain access to available water resources in sub-Saharan Africa. Through some theoretical discourses and literature reviews major issues and processes shaping the production and reproduction of socio-spatial inequality in the water sector have been highlighted. The central argument is that inequality in access to water and water services in sub-Saharan Africa is partly a natural phenomenon, but mostly depends on a social construction. The social perspectives have been emphasized as very critical and interrelated, and deeply touch on a range of issues. This includes the historical contexts of colonialism and post-colonialism, the socio-cultural circumstances of the people, and the wider impact of the global institutional norms and forces on some national water management policies. This places the family, society and the State as the main institutions at the center of water inequality through their everyday discourses, material practices and planning strategies. Several impacts and outcomes have been discussed, and could serve as a basis for targeted reforms aimed at guaranteeing equal and equitable access to water services in sub-Saharan Africa.



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