Rich buying farm land and water rights in Africa while locals go hungry

The wealthy countries repeatedly find new ways to screw Africa. They’re purchasing the fishing rights and denying locals the rights to fish the sea or selling more guns or owning profitable enterprises that ought to be owned locally. In this case, buying fertile land and denying it to locals is sick. The local governments aren’t much better for allowing it but the countries to the north appear to have forgotten about their disastrous colonial legacy.

This is another example of the new wave of colonialism that is blocking Africa from making progress. Even worse, part of what is driving the effort is fuel. How many more examples like this do we need to see before people stop using food growing land to generate fuel? Instead of encouraging this, it’s time to tax the hell out of these plans that are taking food away from people. The Observer:

Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations.

The 1,000 hectares of land which contain the Awassa greenhouses are leased for 99 years to a Saudi billionaire businessman, Ethiopian-born Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, one of the 50 richest men in the world. His Saudi Star company plans to spend up to $2bn acquiring and developing 500,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the next few years. So far, it has bought four farms and is already growing wheat, rice, vegetables and flowers for the Saudi market. It expects eventually to employ more than 10,000 people.

But Ethiopia is only one of 20 or more African countries where land is being bought or leased for intensive agriculture on an immense scale in what may be the greatest change of ownership since the colonial era.

An Observer investigation estimates that up to 50m hectares of land – an area more than double the size of the UK – has been acquired in the last few years or is in the process of being negotiated by governments and wealthy investors working with state subsidies. The data used was collected by Grain, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the International Land Coalition, ActionAid and other non-governmental groups.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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