Is Africa’s land up for grabs?
Mechanized agriculture in Tanzania: There are risks that large-scale farming may harm Africa’s fragile environment. Photograph: UN / B. Wolff
Foreign acquisitions: some opportunities, but many see threats.
An apparent surge in the purchase of African land by foreign companies and governments to grow food and other crops for export has set alarm bells ringing on and off the continent. The headlines have been strident: “The Second Scramble for Africa Starts,” “Quest for Food Security Breeds Neo-Colonists,” “Food Security or Economic Slavery?”
The outcries reflect the continuing impact of the continent’s history, when as recently as the last century colonial powers and foreign settler populations arbitrarily seized African land and displaced those who lived on it, lending considerable emotion to the current volatile issue. Jacques Diouf, the Senegalese director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), wonders whether such land deals could lead to a form of “neo-colonialism.”