Africa Must Reject the Land Grabs: Letter to China, India, Harvard, Egypt, Kuwait, et al.

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August 28, 2011 By specialguest

Andy Kristian

Guest Post from Andy Kristian  a US based Ugandan photographer and photo blogs at Andy Kristian Photography and writes at Voices of Uganda.

Africa is on the brink of losing only what she’s got left; that is, her land. The telescopes of several countries and corporations are on Africa, which until recently still possessed vast areas of arable and virgin land. This shift is due to the rising food prices, climate change and massive populations in Asia, particularly, China, Arab Countries such as Egypt and Kuwait, and India. China has been acquiring land on the cheap from African countries, most of which are emerging out of conflict. Even though the Foreign Ministry of China rejects as false claims of spending millions of dollars in acquiring and grabbing agricultural land across Africa, indeed it has been their practice and are doing it through several chinese corporations and business men (which are protected by the government). Most Africans are watching helplessly as their governments, presided over by corrupt bureaucrats conclude unfair deals for kickbacks that benefit the African elite and the billion Chinese people while putting the welfare of Africans on the line.

African land is not only a target for governments and business men. The British Guardian reports that even big US universities such as Harvard University and Vanderbilt University are grabbing African land on the cheap by investing through hedge funds and other financial speculations. Most of these investors are doing it in the guise of job creation, but in actual fact, it is only a ruse to profit at the expense of poor Africans who mostly lose pastoral and planting land and end up being evicted. According to the wiki, hedge funds “have become aggressively managed and often speculate on the more volatile assets such as foreign currencies, commodities (and land), and aspire to accumulate capital gains by accurately predicting future price movements.” Harvard and Vanderbilt Universities know this only too well because they teach it.

Thus Africa no-longer faces, but rather must grapple with the problem that is already in motion, which may be the decisive blow to its sustainability. Unlike minerals, land and water are essential for the life of 90% of Africans who are rural dwellers. Yet, whoever buys land also controls the water, one of the ulterior motives that cheap Africa land buyers and Africa land grabbers have as a key agenda. While buying land and improving it to achieve full productivity would not be a problem, African leaders are getting into secretive negotiations that are not in any way beneficial to the citizens but to politicians and their cronies. With no clear policy on such matters, an avalanche of “land investors” has overran Africa, tying up deals of leases of 50 to 100 years, with some costing, according the Guardian Newspaper, as little as $1.50 per hectare per year! This is only equated to theft, and whichever government is involved is doing just that – Stealing. Therefore, China, India, Harvard, and other countries and corporations involved in the unfair purchase of African Land are merely thieves.

Africa continues to be the continent with the highest risk of hunger (food insecurity), yet, the food to be planted on these vast lands will be or is mainly for export. It is therefore not naive to assume that it might become cheaper for the Chinese or Indian to buy food that is grown in East Africa, if the East African ever gets the chance of buying it. And if the producer decides to sell their food in the local market, it is probable that the local farmer will not be able to compete with the Chinese or Indian producer. There is a lot at stake, including potential loss of jobs, increasing poverty and hunger as the Africa land grabs will potentially exacerbate theexisting food insecurity in Africa for the growing African population, at over one billion people with a very high growth rate. Moreover, massive profits by foreign firms in Africa are repatriated.

Things are not looking good. In some places and instances, land has been given away completely free.Foreign companies and governments are taking advantage of the situation of poverty and a presence of bad leadership to manipulate our countries into very bad agreements. These are not sustainable, for I predict that we will take over our governments and either renegotiate these contracts and make them pay back what they owe us, or fight them until you lose everything. We may never have gotten the reparations for slavery, but make no mistake, our land is our heritage and we will get it back or we will be compensated commensurately. This is not an unfair demand – it is very reasonable. They have watched (and/or participated) as nations plundered our minerals in blood. But a new African generation has risen up, the Cheetah generation that will count penny upon penny, until we get every nickel and dime back.

I was recently traveling through the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and wandered into a Mont Blanc, a high end jewelry and watch store as I passed time waiting for my connecting flight. The sales girl showed me a small carat of diamond that she said costs €30,000. I asked her where they got their diamond, and without thought she answered, Africa. I asked her again, if it did not seem so odd to her that she was selling a €30,000 tiny piece of stone, and yet not a fraction of that trickles down to the struggling African masses. I do not remember what her answer was but I remember that my question was unsettling. I had made my point, but perhaps to whom it really does not matter much.

We know the problems, but what are the solutions? When I write next, it is what I will try to postulate, but I would appreciate hearing what you think.

 Andy Kristian

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