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The African Land Grab

10 February 2012, 12:07

The fact that Africa is rich in natural resources has in the past been its own Achilles heel, we all know there's plenty of oil to be found in central and north Africa. Diamonds are a plenty with Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau racking them up and Zimbabwe just recently jumped onto the bandwagon by finding large diamond pits. Then there's gold, platinum, Uranium and the list goes on.

In the context of natural resources this continent is wealthy beyond imagine. Something has surely drawn the Chinese here?

All this aside, there's another lesser known but probably more important commodity that Africa holds.

Just the other day I came across a very interesting statistic regarding the percentage of arable land that has yet to be farmed in the world. Africa has 45% of this that has yet been touched (in terms of agriculutre). That's almost half of the available land on the planet that can be used to grow crops.

Naturally this begs the question, why are there so many African countries facing food shortages and hunger when as a continent it techincally can provided for itself and even have excess for export (and importantly creating sustainable jobs). All this in theory of course.

The potential is staggering.

In the same article it stated that Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania had sold off over a million hectares each to South Korean, Chinese and Bangladeshi interests which have set up agricultural activities in those countries. Now one can only hope these countries are benefitting from handing over of this prime land in the form of infrastructure and jobs, but instinct tells me otherwise.

In our own country the same applies, we have some of the most innovative and resourceful farmers in the world yet their numbers are dropping rapidly. Why? Farm murders aside which is another tragedy in itself. They can’t really compete with the imported produce as this is cheaper, unfairly so as it's massively subsidised by the US and European governments. This country needs jobs, and we need direct the resources into that industry, it'll put less pressure on the cities and also rejuvenate the rural parts all the while making us self sustainable.

Why are we allowing these ‘cheaper’ products in? Trade pacts and all that foreign relations nonsense keeps our hands tied most of the time, but I disagree that South Africa (and even Africa) has to bow down to the first world countries and eastern powers, in terms of leverage we have a lot to offer but always pull the short straw?

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