Examine the 21st century’s land deals in African countries, and it’s mostly a collection of unequal “agreements” struck with wealthy nations and companies, busy securing land on which food will be produced.  The International Institute for Environment and Development’s Lorenzo Cotula’s article “Land deals in Africa: What is in the contracts?” provides a rare glimpse into the backroom handshakes, the details of which remain mostly secret.

Though hundreds of deals have been struck, Cotula examines 12 publically available contracts in which large areas of land have been leased. The deals range from a timber deal in Sudan to a rice and corn deal in Madagascar – and the agreements are not exactly in favour of the African nations:

The leases are long, up to 100 years, and the rents are low – a dollar per hectare per year in one case. In another contract, the land is allocated explicitly for free. In some cases investors get priority access to water, the very stuff of life.

While governments make these terrible decisions to hock the family diamonds (without asking the family), hoping that the deals will bring long-term benefits, the deals are so vague and so lopsided that there is hardly a place for recourse, once the sale is made.  However, as we said in a previous entry about the fears of Chinese investment/invasion in Africa, the nations on the “receiving end” do not have to supplicate in the beggar’s pose  – in Liberia, “where land contracts are ratified by its parliament and available online,” the country’s “political leadership allied with expert legal assistance” to produce contracts “which are shorter in duration, clearer on investor commitments.”

Read the story here.

H/T: AIAC reader ebele.

Neelika Jayawardane

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