The Second Scramble for Africa

November 26, 2012
Global Food Politics

The nineteenth century Scramble for Africa marked the pinnacle of European colonial ambitions on the Continent. In the period of just twenty years, the majority of Africa went from being independent to colonies of the European powers, primarily of France and Britain.

Today, many are calling the recent land rush the “Second Scramble for Africa.” Driven by increasing food prices and speculative investment in agricultural commodities, corporations, investment funds, and sovereignty wealth funds are gobbling up land across the Continent.

Land Grabs Map

(Graphic: Rich Clabaugh/Staff)

The Land Matrix website provides a database of recent land deals. They note that, since 2000, there have been 924 land deals, transferring control of nearly 50 million hectares. East Africa has been the epicenter of the new trade, with 260 deals accounting for nearly 9 million hectares concluded in that region alone. Collectively, nearly five percent of Africa’s agricultural land has been bought or leased. An Oxfam report noted that two-thirds of global land deals have been concluded in countries with serious hunger problems. Yet most of these land deals have been concluded in order to grow crops for use as biofuels, like soy, sugarcane, and palm oil, rather than for the production of food crops.

Those interested in learning more should visit Oxfam’s Stop Land Grabs Now site or the Oakland Institute, both of which are doing outstanding work on the topic.