Monday, August 13, 2012

The real African Land grabbers

A recently published article by Fred Pearce in the Daily Mail makes a really poor and reckless job of representing an extremely complex issue. My response:

Firstly, citing two examples from Brazil hardly builds a case for an article about supposed land grabbers in Africa. Brazil is experiencing the highest economic growth among developing countries and their new economic model based on commodities is worth exploring separately. They have rebuilt their economy and boast the lowest unemployment rate in the developing world.
If you had done your research correctly and understood the dynamics of food security and land issues in Africa you will have discovered that that many of these so called agricultural pursuits are in fact smoke screens for earning mining concessions in resource-rich, unstable African territories. Whether these individuals are unscrupulous or not, the real emphasis should be on unethical African governments who allow the exploitation of their own people by selling tribal land to the highest, typically foreign, bidder. You can read the real story of how Phil Edmonds, Andrew Groves and Daniel Och bankrolled the 2008 ZANU PF Zimbabwe election in exchange for a platinum concession in the latest issue of Mail & Guardian. 

When the mining concessions turn out to be fruitless some of these territories have become test grounds for biofuels which prior to the economic downturn in 2008 where tipped as being the highest potential earners for a new green economy.

We ( Africans)  don’t need finger pointing and reckless tarring of foreign investors with an old (Imperial) brush, what we need is some ethical policy structures that encourage skill transfer and infrastructure investment to support small scale farming and commercial innovation of indigenous farming techniques. Your indignation would be better directed at Pan African structures like the African Union and NEPAD who are struggling to conclude pro-poor trade agreements with foreign powers after more than ten years in existence. 

And what Richard Branson has to do with this topic is beyond me. His investment into the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve has helped keep intact a vital ecologically pristine chunk of the Kruger Park biosphere and create hundreds of jobs for the local villages such as Dumphries. The concession fees paid by private landowners go into supporting local conservation and Ulusaba’s community outreach Pride and Purpose has also built schools, clinics and supported home based care initiatives, which are really the obligation of the local government. Isolating Paul Bayliss’efforts of building a clinic in Liberia are quickly diminished  when placed in context of the ecological damage that palm-oil production has over deforestation and food security. Bayliss should probably be doing a great deal more.

Even the shady Phil Edmonds has built a women’s clinic in Maputo to no doubt earn favour with the Mozambique government. What this says is that African governments have become masters at shirking their own responsibilities by using foreign investors to bankroll social development infrastructure for the betterment of their own people. The enemy is not Imperialism; it is a lack of ethics that traverses individual business interests and corrupt governments.