Is Africa for Sale? Yes, but who is buying?

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No other continent has endured such a bizarre combination of western thievery and handouts. Wall Street speculators, mandarin billionaires, oil sheiks are buying up huge tracts of the African continent. An unprecedented land grab is taking place in Africa without the consent of the population. Fearing future food shortages or eager to profit from them, the world’s wealthiest and most acquisitive countries, corporations and individuals keep buying vast areas of the African continent.

In less than a decade, we have flipped from a hopeless continent to an investment darling of the world. Escalating energy and food prices have triggered a global scramble for Africa’s land and water resources. Eager to feed the growing populations or to speculate, corporates and sovereign wealth funds are buying up prime farmlands in Africa just for few bucks.

On the other side, the clarion trumpeters claim that western demand for biofuels is not to blame for land acquisitions, but the evidences suggest otherwise because this issue is more complex than what they would like us to believe. Big corporates, greedy speculators, and governments scooping up lands claim that industrial-scale farming will help local economies to flourish and trade balances to grow. But facts on the ground reveal a far more troubling reality. While some projects are ethically run, all too often poor farmers and cattle herders are evicted from ancestral lands or cut off from water sources. The bonanza jobs promised by foreign investors and home governments alike fail to materialize often. Hungry nations are being forced to export their food for the wealthy, while at the same time; too many corporates resemble nowadays-feudal fiefdoms.

The scrambling for Africa will be fatal for Africans in the long run. Investment is welcome if it’s a fair deal where people can benefit from it. But that’s not what we are seeing on the ground. We are seeing violence, forced evictions and homelessness.  Land grabbing denies land for local communities, destroys livelihoods, reduces the political space for peasant oriented agricultural policies and distorts markets towards increasingly concentrated agribusiness interests and global trade, rather than sustainable peasant agriculture for local and national markets and for future generations.

To avoid systematic abuses, however the playing field between local and foreign interests must be leveled. Binding rules must be established to protect the rights of indigenous farmers, as well as to ensure the integrity of Africa’s environment, soil and water. Land rights, not land grabs can help African people move forward.

Over the next decade, land theft may matter more to African populations than even climate change. It will affect who eats and who does not; who gets richer and who gets poorer, and whether agrarian societies can exist outside corporates influence. In a foreseeable future, this will be the new upcoming conflict over who owns the planet.

I am astonished by how selfish and greedy so many people are. The rich and powerful keep grasping lands and manipulating food prices that disenfranchise the powerless. If land grabbing is quintessential to theft and robbery, we Africans must unveil an ethical revolution to stop mandarin tycoons and oil sheiks to amass billions of dollars, while millions of African men and women who work hard all the days of their lives, secure barely enough for their wretched existence.

Andrea Dondi

I am the very pattern of a mixed heritage. I was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Italy: but I’m an African first. I am also a seasoned entrepreneur navigating nowadays in high highs and low lows rough seas. I am a staunch believer in pan-africanism. We don’t want Africa to be sliced and diced and we don’t want crumbs either. I love and worship Africa for our stainless spiritual heritage; for our endurance; for our patience. I am a proud African fellow not because i am but because i believe we are.

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