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Land Grabs in Africa, the Real Deal

These days we hear of all sorts of companies and some universities who are purchasing large tracts of land in Africa.  What’s the big deal?

First of all, it should be noted that arable land all over the world is mostly exhausted, thus considering the value of food, land should be a very valuable asset and thus this scenario a win-win for all of Africa.  Logically it should, as should the astronomical increases in the price of our gold, cocoa and other exports, but to the contrary.  Here in Africa, the greater the value of our resources, the worse our predicament.

Nowadays Monsanto has its agents and subsidiaries purchasing every square foot of land available.  In 2010 it was stated that 40% of Ghana’s arable is owned by foreign outfits.  These companies produce foods for their local markets, thus export 90% of their produce.  With less land, we are able to farm less food and gradually we are importing more and more foods, with our dependence on imported rice being the worst example.  Ghana previously grew enough rice to supply the West African region and now we do not grow enough to support Accra's demand.  Africa’s land is being used to feed Europe and America, while African children suffer malnutrition.

But who are the criminals, who are the culprits?  Needless to say, it’s the usual suspects. As in the days of old, when Europeans needed slave labor to build their empires, they made their contracts with the Chiefs, the only recognized authority at the time.  Since then they have installed countless offices with numerous titles, all for the sole purpose of doing their dirty bidding.  Now when a purchaser decides he wants 20,000 hectares of land, he always ask for a government attachment, someone with the power to call out the police when the inhabitants of the land resist.  Rest assured, no one willing gives up their family's only means of survival.  The government officials, usually from within the very Land Commission, (whose job it is to protect the interest of the illiterate masses, whose land this is) then direct buyers to chiefs who inherited their ‘throne’ and their charge over vast amounts of land for their subjects.  These two bandits draft a deal with the buyer (a perfectly 'legit' businessman or an economic hit man, depending on your perspective) releasing lands reserved for future generations for a pittance that wouldn’t even cover the cost of this generation’s education.  Here’s the killer:  the prices paid for the land is not based on a land valuation, not based on existing crops, or the cost of displacing residents, rather the prices are arbitrarily dictated by the buyers.  These fools are selling our land for as little as $250/hectare (that’s 2 acres of arable land worth at least $12,000!).  They are selling them by the thousands and thus cleaning up since a chief is not required by law to disclose or divide the sales he makes from a land transaction in his charge with his mere subjects.  The inhabitants are given a 30 day notice and when the time is up and they are found lingering, out in comes the police and the bulldozers.  Such a case recently took place in Ethiopia, the last bastion of sovereignty and such is the case in Ghana and most parts of Africa.  The vulgar greed that  once gave way to the slave trade is rearing its ugly head once again, the children of the guilty are still at it.