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G8 Plan to Invest in Africa Agriculture Smacks of Colonial Land Grab

A G8 initiative intended to get corporations to invest in Africa with the goal of alleviating hunger on that continent is – surprise, surprise – not working out as planned.

President Barack Obama launched the "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition" in 2012 when the United States held the presidency of the G8 (the Group of Eight, a forum of eight of the world's major economies).

By encouraging partnerships between governments and corporations to invest in Africa, the G8 said it hoped to "lift 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by 2022."

But instead of becoming a mechanism for improving farm production and reducing hunger in Africa, the New Alliance is causing many hardships for African farmers, including land grabs by companies that is forcing tens of thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of African farmers off land their communities have worked for generations.

"It is unacceptably cynical of the G8 to pretend to be tackling hunger and land grabbing in Africa while backing a scheme that will ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of small farmers," Kirtana Chandrasekaran, food sovereignty program coordinator at Friends of the Earth, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

How a Plan to Get Companies to Invest in Africa Turned Bad

So far six African nations have signed on to the alliance – Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania – as have about 70 global and local companies.

The New Alliance policies were developed by the African governments in consultation with the private sector investors. For the most part, Africa's small farmers and their advocacy groups were ignored.

It's not hard to figure out why the New Alliance has benefited the national governments and those investing in Africa at the expense of small farmers and local interests.

Those interests have protested in vain.

A coalition of African farmers' groups posted an online petition in May calling the G8 plan for investing in Africa "a new wave of colonialism."

"Private ownership of knowledge and material resources means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations," the petition said.

Their concern is well-founded. Numerous multinational grain, seed and fertilizer companies have joined the alliance, encouraged by new rules that require African farmers to buy their seeds – including genetically modified seeds – rather than the cheaper local varieties they've used for years.

That favors companies like Monsanto (NYSE: MON), Yara International ASA (OTC: YARIY) and Cargill, Inc.

Other big public companies that decided to invest in Africa under the New Alliance initiative include:

Join the conversation. Click here to jump to comments…

  1. enthusceptic | July 6, 2013

    Am selling YAR now!

  2. Louise Williams | July 8, 2013

    Africans who have farned abd lived on the land for centuries should be allowed to have their land officially placed in their names, so when companies come in form USA or UK or China and grab up land greedily, Africans get to keep their rightful shares. Otherwise it will be the same unfair situation that happened with American Indians who were displaced and their land and livelihood and way of life removed from them. We must not let that happen to the Africans in Africa.

  3. Robert in Canada | July 8, 2013

    The G8 plan is much better than the current model which has proven to benefit UN agencies and African tyrants only while the people starve and suffer.

    The G8 model forces African governments to deal with companies who are trying to make a profit. This mean the money will be spent on improving infrastructure, proper training of workers, and modern farming equipment and methods.

    • Laura | July 10, 2013

      What do you mean by "better"? This is the same model as the UN, the World Bank, etc. It's all the same progressive result…. take advantage of a sad situation, force families off their land, dictate rules, destroy their market by temporarily underpricing(a ploy of big business). They usually accomplish this with the help of the authorities of these countries, by "paying-them-off. The farmers will suffer but the elite will have more money. GMO seeds will potentially wipe out their natural plant species, as they massively did in India.

  4. Rick | July 9, 2013

    Let's not forget the other great bugaboo in sub saharan Africa – corrupt dictators who stole from the productive to buy support and enrich their cronies. One of the best examples is Zimbabe where Bobby Mugabe has brutally destroyed a productive agricultural economy to the extent that one of Africa's best bread baskets is now having to import food. Let's hear it for the falacy of redistribution of wealth – it really means stealing from the productive and giving to the leaches.

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