Amanz’ abantu: Water (and Sanitation) for the People

Amanz’ abantu means ‘water for the people’ in Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu. Amanz’ Abantu Services, Ltd., established as a private South African company in 1997, aimed to provide water supply and sanitation for peri-urban and rural communities in the Eastern Cape, where a quarter of the population lacked potable water. The company pipes water meeting international quality standards to sites where individuals can access standpipes using smartcard technology. Before the arrival of Amanz’ Abantu, villagers—mainly rural women—had to walk up to several hours to obtain water from the nearest river. And they were still vulnerable to waterborne diseases. Bringing a safe water supply within 200 metres of homes transformed the lives of rural residents, equipping villagers with skills in building and construction and making them employable in a country with 25% unemployment. The case details the contentious reception for private-sector involvement in water provision and how the company overcame the obstacles to address a social problem and earn a profit—$67,000 in 2006.

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