Emerging and old powers responsible for rise in land grab in Africa

2012-11-14 20:32

We have known for several years now that Africa’s abundant land is the target of land-hungry big powers, mainly in the west and lately Asian powers, looking for this precious resource to boost their own food production and for green energy sources.

In a strike of irony, it was land grab by ZANU-PF-aligned War Veterans in the early 2005 that put spotlight on the growing scramble for Africa land in Africa. The Zimbabwe land controversies dominated headlines especially in South Africa. Issues of social justice and equity of ownership were raised even through the dominant view critical of redistribution of wealth and empowerment. It involved Zimbabwean nationals on both sides of the land grabbing, although there was always an involvement of external actors both in abetting and containing the grabbing.

There has not been sufficient attention paid to an even worse incidence of land grabbing, conducted by major and rich economic powers in shady agreements with African governments.

According to farmlandgrab, of the 416 cases of land grabbing recorded since 2000, 288 involved African farm land. The vast majority of these cases large agribusiness multinational companies and average size of land acquired range from 20 0000 ha and 2 000 000 ha. All land required was arable and used by local populations.

The main drivers of land grabbing are from the West and the emerging east. These include the British, the French, Americans, Italians, the Dutch, Belgians, Germans and so forth. The Chinese have become a major actor in this grabbing some huge farm lands especially in West Africa and the Horn of Africa. The Indians, Brazilians and South Koreans have also entered the scramble, thus opening themselves to accusations of being involved in Sub-imperialism and undermining Africa’s food sovereignty.

Interestingly, some of recent land grabbing was done by South African companies especially in Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic.

African farmland is being acquired almost exclusively to meet national needs of external powers or the global commercial interests of multinational companies. In the main, Africa’s land is being used to grow food and crops for generating renewable energies for huge Western economies and emerging economies of the global South-the BRICS in particular.

Thus, Africa’s food sovereignty is being compromised to feed citizens and commercial greed elsewhere. African governments are selling or leasing Africa’s lifeline for easy cash without any real reinvestment of such cash in small-scale food production or human development services in affected areas.

Lack of strong policy and regulations on land acquisitions in Africa allows this problem to deepen.

With regard to commercial interests, the logic of capitalism is accumulation of profits at whatever expenses. Competitiveness impels multinationals to use their capital power to even subvert the sovereignty of nation states, as is often said of globalization. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the power of multinationals as displayed in their ability to get favourable land deals from relatively weak governments.

This matter puts paid the pretence on the part of BRICS to being alternatives to Western neoliberal agenda. They have shown themselves equally able to pursue exploitative commercial relations with Africa. Africa governments have become co-conspirators against people’s food sovereignty.

We therefore, need justice-loving people to call for re-examination of the of the flurry of land deals in Africa, especially in poor countries with a view to developing regulations along the lines of accountability and better governance to ensure that the citizens and countries’ food sovereignty is not compromised.

South Africa has to act responsibly by constraining the behaviour of its multinationals, while working within the BRICS forum and the G20 to develop strong regulations to constrain the behaviour of land-hungry countries.

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