Grabbing Africa


The global rush to acquire agricultural land in bountiful Africa evokes concern and protests.

THE continent of Africa, already facing severe food shortages, has in recent years been targeted for land acquisition by countries from outside the region. The trend started in the 1990s when countries such as Sudan allowed rich Gulf countries to buy agricultural land in the areas irrigated by the bountiful waters of the White and Blue Nile. The oil bonanza had not yet materialised in Sudan. Under virtual sanctions from the West, it was facing severe economic constraints and was caught in a bloody civil war.

However, it is only in the last couple of years that the global rush to grab land in Africa accelerated. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank, since 2006, some 15-20 million hectares of land in poor countries have either been sold or are under negotiations for sale to foreign buyers. Apart from the oil-rich Gulf emirates, China, South Korea and India have also made large investments in land in many African countries. The land has been taken either on the basis of outright purchases or on 99-year leases. The countries where most of the land deals are taking place are Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania.

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