Skip to main content Skip to footer

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Publications

Reports

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa

Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa, released by Inclusive Development International, Bank Information Center, Accountability Counsel, Urgewald and the Oakland Institute shows how the World Bank Group has indirectly financed some of Africa’s most notorious land grabs. The World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is enabling and profiting from these projects by outsourcing its development funds to the financial sector.

Justice Denied: Resettlement, Demilitarization, and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Justice Denied exposes the many issues that continue to plague land release and resettlement in the country, and the failure of the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its international commitments to transitional justice.

Illegal Logging Papua New Guinea:  Taking On the Logging Pirates Report Cover

A landmark report from the Oakland Institute, Taking On the Logging Pirates: Land Defenders in Papua New Guinea Speak Out! elevates the voices of communities across the country who are opposing the theft of their land, made possible by the corrupt practices of local officials and foreign companies.

Image Credit: Doug Blackmon, Erik Prince, Ann Hagedorn; Aftermath of of the Endless War

The Return of Erik Prince: Trump’s Knight in America’s New Crusade? a new brief from the Oakland Institute, exposes the comeback of the founder of Blackwater, the notorious private security company. An ardent detractor of Obama/Clinton foreign policy during the presidential campaign, Prince is now set with access to unique assets, to be a key player in Trump’s foreign policy.

Down on the Seed Cover: Enabling the Business of Agriculture Enables Corporate Takeover

Only six multinationals currently control over two-thirds of the industrial seed sales, and pending agro-industry mergers stand to further consolidate this oligopoly.

The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda
In recent years, there has been a significant trend toward land acquisition in developing countries, establishing forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution generated in the Global North. Badged as “green economic development,” global carbon markets are often championed not only as solutions to climate change, but as drivers of positive development outcomes for local communities. But there is mounting evidence that these corporate land acquisitions for climate change mitigation—including forestry plantations—severely compromise not only local ecologies but also the livelihoods of the some of the world’s most vulnerable people living at subsistence level in rural areas in developing countries.
Miracle or Mirage Report Cover

As months of protest and civil unrest hurl Ethiopia into a severe political crisis, a new report from the Oakland Institute debunks the myth that the country is the new “African Lion.” Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia exposes how authoritarian development schemes have perpetuated cycles of poverty, food insecurity, and marginalized the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

Backroom Bullying Report Cover

Backroom Bullying: The Role of the United States Government in the Herakles Farms’ Land Grab in Cameroon, shows how bullying by US government officials may have played a critical role in the granting of nearly 20,000 ha by the Cameroonian government to the US-based firm Herakles Farms in 2013, instead of the cancellation of clearly flawed project.

Waiting to Return Home Cover

Threatened and despaired, a group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka petitioned the Oakland Institute to help them return home. This inspired the Institute’s latest report, Waiting to Return Home: Continued Plight of the IDPs in Post-War Sri Lanka. Backed by extensive field research and interviews, the report highlights a harsh reality—amid United Nations resolutions, task forces, and numerous promises made by the Sirisena administration, tens of thousands of IDPs in Sri Lanka still await resettlement, seven years after the end of the civil war.

The Unholy Alliance Report Cover

The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.

Pages

Briefs

Iowa-based Summit Group and Global Agriculture Fund of the Pharos Financial Group, in partnership with AgriSol Energy LLC and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, are developing a large agriculture enterprise in Tanzania. The site encompasses three “abandoned refugee camps”– Lugufu in Kigoma province (25,000 ha), Katumba (80,317 ha), and Mishamo (219,800 ha), both in Rukwa province.

The World Bank Group (WBG) promotes large-scale land investment in developing countries as a “win-win” situation where investors profit and “host” nations benefit from economic development, improved agricultural infrastructure, and employment opportunities. Since the 2008 food and financial crises, the number of land investment deals in developing countries has skyrocketed, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Oakland Institute’s (OI) investigation into over 50 land investments deals in seven African countries highlights the role played by a wide range of international development agencies, multilateral institutions, and so-called “socially responsible” investment funds. While using the language of aid organizations these institutions speak of “helping Africa feed itself,” “improved food security,” “livelihood creation,” and “sustainable environmental policies.” However a closer look at their agenda and policy prescriptions, and an investigation into the reality on the ground reveals otherwise. Even with growing evidence that the current African land grab is displacing small farmers, indigenous communities, and threatening food and water security, US and international development agencies continue to push for foreign agricultural land investment. This brief explores this issue further.

The promise of job creation has been put forward by investors, governments, and international institutions to convince local communities of the benefits of foreign investment in agriculture. For instance, the Sierra Leonean president, claimed in March 2011, “Huge investments in the [agricultural] sector will definitely translate into hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities for our youths.” Several countries studied by the Oakland Institute reveal that many locals thus welcome land investment with the hope that such projects will bring jobs and wages.

The belief that large-scale land investment in Africa will result in much needed economic development is strongly promoted by foreign investors, government officials, and international institutions. As a result, many African governments fervently encourage foreign investment in agricultural land and offer what some have called “mouthwatering” incentives to investors. Officials trust that land deals will spur growth with incoming capital, assist with infrastructure, and create employment for local people. On their part, investors reinforce these ideas with bold promises of economic development, “modernization” and numerous jobs. AgriSol Energy Tanzania LLC, for instance, claims they will transform Tanzania into a “regional agricultural powerhouse” using genetically modified crops and other technologies to increase yields.

Cheap land and fairly easy access to water make Africa attractive for industrial agriculture. Investors see Africa as an “uncrowded space of opportunities,” and the prospect of accessing abundant water resources is a focal point in business plans. Some firms are explicit that they are as much agricultural land investors as they are investors in water supplies. Others say that they only select land which has access to water for large-scale irrigation and that land only has value if water is available. The availability of water gains further meaning as estimates show that the increased requirements for food to feed the world’s population – exceeding 7 billion – will outpace existing water resources by 40 percent by 2030.

In the trend of large-scale agricultural land acquisitions in Sub-Saharan Africa “green investments” such as the production of agrofuels and agroforestry developments, are upheld as climate solutions, and are being used to justify, promote, and accelerate massive land grabs. Yet, even as research indicates that the expansion of industrial agriculture on African soil is likely to aggravate the heating of the planet, market mechanisms like carbon trade and carbon credits are providing a “green cover” for current land grabs.

The largest land deal in South Sudan to date was negotiated between a Dallas, Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development Inc. (NTD) and Mukaya Payam Cooperative in March 2008. The 49-year land lease of 600,000 hectares (with a possibility of 400,000 additional hectares) for 75,000 Sudanese Pounds (equivalent to approximately USD 25,000), allows NTD full rights to exploit all natural resources in the leased land.

Since 2003, Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, one of the most culturally and ecologically unique areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, has been thrust into the international spotlight due to the launch of the controversial Gibe III hydroelectric project. Unfortunately, the massive commercial agriculture developments and resulting state-sponsored human rights violations – all made possible by Gibe III – have escaped international attention.

 

Factsheet cover

Emergent Asset Management (Emergent), a private limited liability company based in the UK and minority owned by Toronto Dominion Bank, claims to be managing the largest agricultural fund in Africa. Using private equity to invest in industrial agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, Emergent is however, a prime example of the troublesome rise in speculative funds that are investing in African agricultural land.

Pages

Press Releases