Foreign Investment, Stealing Land?

Foreign Investment, Stealing Land?

Ethiopia’s land grabs. Since 2000, foreign firms, with the Ethiopian government’s cooperation, have bought up an area twice the size of Germany for agriculture, sending the profits out of the country and squeezing out local farmers.

Since 2000, over 37 million hectares of land, mainly in the world’s poorest nations, have been acquired by foreign investors “without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities” in what, according to Oxfam and other organizations, constitutes a “land grab.” It’s a portion of land twice the size of Germany, according to researchers.

Quartz recently reported on this foreign investment model that now seems to be ravaging land and more importantly the output and economic impact of that land in more than a handful of African nations.

Ethiopia is the latest to sign away 20, 30, or even 50 years of land to foreign investment deals from Saudi Arabia and India.

This is not the kind of foreign investment that we believe in or advocate at Emerging Ideas. This is nothing short of economic bondage and imprisonment. So much so, that it will trickle into the next generations.

There are so many things wrong with swooping in and stealing land in this manner. Foreign investment is important and it’s needed across Africa, however, we must be diligent to invest in local companies, focus on exporting in industries like agriculture only after our own nations are fed, and use these investments strategically to innovate and accelerate local entrepreneurs’ efforts and small business growth.

If all that foreign investment does is extract goods and products leaving the top of the food chain happier and richer, than we are missing the point entirely.

Come on Africa, we can do better than this. Have some pride in yourself and let’s get our hands dirty building by local and for local first before we squander our greatest assets for the next half century.

To avoid ending on a negative note, if you’d like to read about a positive foreign investment deal, Acumen Fund featured a great one here.

(photo via alfredo bini/cosmos)