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Mother Africa Weeps while the Diaspora Sleeps

July 28, 2011
South Florida Times

By Al Calloway


According to the Oakland Institute, an Oakland, Calif., non-profit social development think-tank, the super rich, especially European, and some U.S. universities are engaged in a land grab in Africa. Some 148 million acres of land “equal to the size of France” have already been gobbled-up by investors just since the so-called financial crash of 2009.
The institute’s devastating report, “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa,” fingers players such as bailed-out JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs currency traders and investment bankers who now head London-based Emergent Asset Management, probably the largest land acquisition fund targeting Africa.

Anuradha Mittal, executive director of Oakland Institute, told CNN reporter Brian Walker during a June 12 interview, “The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers are now doing the same with the world’s food supply.”

Cheap food for Europeans and other foreign markets and huge profits have been driving European hedge funds to establish immense industrial farming projects throughout Africa. The great African land grab is displacing small African farmers and people who have occupied traditional lands for eons, through swindles, confiscation, corrupt government edicts, misunderstandings and lack of business acumen.

Mittal blasts the Western world for seeing Africa “as a basket case – we talk about its hunger, we talk about its corruption but we are responsible for trying to steal the land and turn it into a breadbasket for the North.”

A conglomerate that includes the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, for example, is buying some 800,000 acres in Tanzania. The land includes three so-called “abandoned refugee camps.” Refugees who became citizens in 2010 will not receive citizen certificates until they relocate elsewhere in Tanzania.

In addition, white South African farm managers are being brought in, breaking the promise to hire local black farm project managers. The Tanzanian government is approving the title of occupancy for the project that will include “large-scale crop cultivation, beef and poultry production, and biofuel production,” according to the Oakland Institute report.
Another conglomerate is getting nearly 1.5 million acres in South Sudan – and possibly another 1 million – for about U.S. $25,000. The Oakland Institute reports that the land has been leased out to the conglomerate by “an influential group of natives” behind the backs of the entire community.

Billionaire Jean Claude Gandur, chairman of Addax Bioenergy, is buying nearly 50,000 acres of Sierra Leone’s sugar plantations to produce ethanol for Europe. To get acceptance for the project, community rice farmers were promised that their lowland rice growing would not be disturbed. They were lied to. Reports indicate that “the land has been dried out, large and deep channels were dug to drain them, and Addax is cultivating the lower lying swamp land previously used for rice production.”

Quifel Agribusiness, a Lisbon-based firm, is buying more than 300 acres of mineral-rich land (diamonds, gold, bauxite and iron ore) in Sierra Leone. The swindle: Local chiefs and landowners did not receive copies of the leases. Instead, the company had an attorney to deal with the locals and then sign all documents on their behalf!

Mittal told CNN that, in Zambia, whites negotiate land titles with local chiefs by bringing “a bottle of Johnnie Walker, sit on the ground with him and clap three times and make your offering of whiskey. Then you have secured the title to the land with no problem.”

In Ethiopia, export-driven farms owned by foreign investors drive hundreds of thousands off traditional lands to be placed in government-planned villages (probably a version of American inner-city housing projects).

Harvard and other universities, including Vanderbilt, Wake Forrest and George Washington, and still others are investors in the great African land grab. Their endowments are invested in the hedge funds that are doing to the Motherland exactly what colonizing Americans did to the native people across this continent.

If only our athletes and other rich entertainers, as well as our vast array of churches and Greek-letter organizations, would/could marshal hedge fund type resources throughout the Diaspora, we could be in control of the Motherland’s vital resources and wealth. Europe is there, China, Libya and the so-called Middle East, all to utilize the abundance of Alkebu-lan (Africa’s ancient name before the advent of foreign incursions).

Unfortunately, the spirit world of the Motherland weeps for us while we sleep and get beat. Again!

Al Calloway is a long-time journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at [email protected].