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Are Foreign Investors Colonising Africa?

October 25, 2011
Al Jazeera

New economic powers India and China are being accused of buying land cheaply and uprooting indigenous communities.

Indian, Chinese and U.S. companies are among many inking land-investment deals in Africa, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Mali, and Mozambique. According to a study by the U.S.- based Oakland Institute, foreign investors bought or leased a land area in sub-Saharan Africa about the size of France in 2009 alone. American universities’ trusts (including Harvard’s) are also buying up land, reportedly displacing millions of farmers in the process. Advocates say the land is being taken from indigenous communities by often violent means, and that land rights are handed over without proper contracts after closed-door deals. A lack of regulations in these countries allows foreign firms to purchase or lease large tracts of arable land, leaving little recourse for displaced residents. Investors claim to be growing food for the global market that will indirectly alleviate food shortages in Africa, but land is very often used to grow non-edible export commodities such as flowers and biofuels. Defendants of the deals say local farmers who are employed by foreign firms earn more working the land than they otherwise could, and that infrastructure developments (like clean water facilities or improved irrigation systems) are there to help them. But many of the long-term social and environmental costs are more hard to predict, and critics say the “land grabs” are already causing “deprivation and destitution” for locals. Indian author and media commentator Anand Giridharadas will the joining the programme. The Oakland Institute’s Executive Director, Anuradha Mittal, will be on the show via Skype along with Christine L. Adamow, Managing Director of Africa BioFuel, a U.S. company invested in farmland in Kenya and Tanzania.