Scholarship on urban Africa’s water crisis narratives: the state of the art

  • DW Olivier Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6037-9150
  • C Vogel Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa
  • BFN Erasmus Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa
Keywords: Africa, urban centres, water crises, narrative analysis, media, systematic literature review

Abstract

Water crises present a global water governance challenge. To date, scholarship has tended to focus on technological and policy-based solutions, while ignoring the influence of narratives on public buy-in during such crises. Africa is expected to become hotter and drier in future, while its cities experience high levels of informal population growth and inequality. These factors combine to make African cities particularly vulnerable to times of water stress. The aim in this paper is to investigate the state of the ‘art’ on narratives framing domestic water use in African cities during periods of acute water stress and ‘crises’, using a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed academic journal articles. The findings revealed a small population of recently published papers that engage critically with state-generated narratives framing the crisis, limited to case studies on Cape Town and Windhoek. We recommend, however, a greater critical engagement with the anti-establishment narratives that can flourish during periods of acute water stress, and tend to be inflammatory and divisive in nature.

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Published
2021-04-29
Section
Research paper