Foreign investments in African agriculture – pros and cons / Ausländische Investitionen in afrikanische Landwirtschaft – Ausbeuterei oder Chance?

9 Sep

In recent years, more and more states such as Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and China has started to acquire land in Africa to use as farmland. But also private investors from the US and Europe are becoming more and more active in this areas, motivated by the rising costs for food and the lack of agricultural land in many highly populated states.

In my new book “Black woman, white country” , I argue that the only thing that could really lift Africa out of poverty are not donations and so-called development aid in the form of payments to African governments, but private investments that create jobs in Africa, thereby providing Africans with a stable income and foster the development of an African middle class. For more on this, please also read my “Manifesto for Africa” which is included in the book.

So how do I feel about foreign investors buying land in Africa?

First of all, there is a dire need for stricter rules to be applied by those states in Africa willing to sell or rent their land to foreign investors. Nobody in Africa (except for maybe the government) benefits from land being sold if the investor buys it only to speculate on later selling it on for a higher price. This way, no jobs are created, no infrastructure improves…the only effect such a transaction has is that the government now has more and the local farmer has even less.

But this is not how foreign investments have to be. I am convinced that opening up to the possibility of accepting foreign investors in one’s agriculture can be a huge chance for African governments to improve the livelihood of their population. But in order to achieve this, there have to be strict rules as to the obligations of the investor: the number of jobs that will be created for the local population, the investments that will be made by building streets and railways for transport, irrigation and sanitation for the workers, and even schools and health care for the local farmers. The costs of this are low compared to the profits an investor can make, and hence should be obligatory.

What do you think about foreign investments in African agriculture? Is it negative to you, or do you see the chances it holds, too? Please discuss, I am very interested in your opinions!



In den vergangenen Jahren haben mehr und mehr Länder wie z.B. Saudi Arabien oder China aber auch private Investoren aus den USA und Europa begonnen, große Landflächen in Afrika zu kaufen um dort Lebensmittel für den heimischen Markt zu produzieren.  Dies wird in Zukunft durch die hohen Lebensmittelpreise und die begrenzten Anbauflächen in vielen reichen Ländern noch zunehmen.

In meinem neuen Buch „Schwarze Frau, weißes Land“ erkläre ich detailliert, warum ich der Ansicht bin, dass nur Investitionen in die Wirtschaft und nicht etwa Spenden oder die sogenannte Entwicklungshilfe Afrika aus der Armut helfen können. Investitionen, nicht Spenden, sind es, die Arbeitsplätze schaffen und damit Afrikanerinnen und Afrikanern zu einem gesicherten Einkommen verhelfen und die Entstehung einer afrikanischen Mittelschicht ermöglichen. Näheres dazu findet ihr auch in meinem „Manifest für Afrika“, das auch in „Schwarze Frau, weißes Land“ abgedruckt ist.

Was halte ich also von Investoren, die Land in Afrika kaufen?

Das wichtigste zuerst: es fehlen klare Regeln. Afrikanische Staaten, die Land an ausländische Investoren verkaufen wollen, müssen diesen Bedingungen stellen. Denn niemand in Afrika (außer vielleicht die Regierungen selbst) hat etwas davon, wenn die Investoren das Land nur kaufen, nicht aber bewirtschaften, etwa um auf steigende Landpreise zu spekulieren.  Durch einen solchen Verkauf werden weder Arbeitsplätze geschaffen, noch die Infrastruktur verbessert…der einzige Effekt ist, dass die Regierung nun noch etwas mehr und der vertriebene Kleinbauer noch etwas weniger hat.

Aber so muss es nicht sein. Ich bin überzeugt, dass auch die afrikanische Bevölkerung von ausländischen Investoren profitieren kann, wenn die Regierung die richtigen Bedingungen stellt: über die Art und Anzahl der Arbeitsplätze, die entstehen, den Umfang der Investitionen in den Ausbau von Straßen und Schienenverkehr, Bewässerung, Abwassersystemen und auch in Schulen und Gesundheitsversorgung für die Arbeiter und deren Familien. Die Kosten für den Investor sind selbst dann noch niedrig im Vergleich zu den Gewinnen, die er erzielen kann.

Was ist eure Meinung zu ausländischen Investoren in Afrika? Überwiegen für euch die Risiken oder die Chancen? Ich bin gespannt auf eure Meinungen!



6 Responses to “Foreign investments in African agriculture – pros and cons / Ausländische Investitionen in afrikanische Landwirtschaft – Ausbeuterei oder Chance?”

  1. cath holland September 10, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    Mmmm, sceptical to say the least. First thoughts are GM crops, fertilizers, pesticides, farmers having to buy expensive seed when they used to save their own. Profit margins for multinationals etc. etc.
    When you mention infrastructure, railways etc., there are the remnants of rusting, disused railways all over many African countries from colonial days.
    Would these people really pay decent wages and build schools and hospitals? If so why have they not already done so e.g. at the many tea and coffee plantations? As one travels through Africa one sees tiny tin shacks crowded together in urban areas close to factories and plantations. These homes must be so uncomfortable and hot compared to a rural African homestead with lovely roomy, cool traditional round houses with fresh homegrown maize, vegetables etc. In other words largely self sufficient.
    Any foreign investors are there for profit and as you say Waris, land shortage in other places. These large scale farming methods are also contributing to climate change and such catastrophes as the recent floods in Pakistan. I am just reading Wangari Maathai’s book, “Unbowed” where she talks about flood, erosion etc. that never used to be there when farming was much more small scale.
    the Chinese are currently major investors in Africa but they don’t care about what happened in Darfur and don’t think Bashir should be arrested for war crimes.
    As I said I can’t help being cynical and sceptical. African countries should be self sufficient and hang on to all the valuable resources especially the land!

  2. Harjeet Singh September 10, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    Dear Waris Dirie,

    I fully agree with your views and would like to add a little to what you’ve said.

    The representatives of the local farmers should be involved by the government in formulating the long-term policies, so that their interests are looked into positively and don’t end up only as a lip-service.

    The following should be well defined:
    The number of jobs that will be created.
    The detailed plan for infrastructure that needs to be developed.

    I strongly think that if the local people are not involved at the initial stage, all these projects will get hijacked by the vested interests of investors and the government.

    Thank you for agreeing with my views on the face book.

    The apprehension by some of the friends discussing on face book regarding the prevalent corrupt practices, resulting in exploitation of local farmers is genuine.

    Now, I visualize a few options to address the situation. Let us see which one of these would be viable:

    Neither the government nor the investors will let it happen.

    Impossible. Exploitation will continue.

    Government and Investors will agree for this if the local farmers convey this strongly through their representatives.
    I think this is the best option. I don’t say that there will be absolutely no exploitation, but this would give the local people a chance to closely monitor the projects throughout the execution, giving them the opportunity for constructive participation. This may also generate more employment avenues for the children of the local farmers.

    Lots of love and warm regards.
    Almighty bless you!!

  3. Sebastian September 11, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    2007 I have been around Ethiopia and could see the Chinese on the streets. They just build the streets that it is enough for them to get the all the treasures out of the earth (metals like copper, etc.). Afterwards they will leave Ethiopia in a bad condition: bad streets and no ressources left. So send the Chinese home and do it yourself.

  4. Sulemana abudulai September 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Waris raises an important issue on how africa relates so-called investors and I agree Cath and Sebastian – we have to remember the Trojan Horse! The last thing africa needs is for the rate of landlessness not to be matched by alternatives sources of employment. If Chinese agriculture is largely rooted on large numbers of small farmers, why are they and other ‘investors’
    advocating strategies that will make millions lose their ancestral lands and rights?

    We need to hear the views of the small farmers themselves – ILO 169 – prior informed consent on local and indigenous rights.

    Thanks Waris.

  5. Esther Bruni May 13, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Dear Waris
    Sorry for my bad english, but i’ll try and hope you understand. I’m from Switzerland and wrote your books and saw your film and I’m very impressed about your life and your work! I never been in Africa, but I saw many poor people in Latin America. My opinion about investments from rich companies in poor countries.
    the companies can really invest only to help the people in Africa, to find there own way to have education, human rights and specially enough food and use it only for the people in this african countries. It’s not right, when they invest to have profit for theme-self. Also the import and export business can’t be a really chance, because the transportation isn’t a respectful handling for our world. Every country has the own-one necessarily resources like ground, plants, sun, rain… even the dessert how I now from you. It’s important to find out, which kind of food and other plants and animals are in harmony with the climate in each country.
    When we in Switzerland have a big crisis, we wouldn’t have enough food for all people. Africa has the chance, I think, to make a self-sufficiency and bring it together with their culture and their country. I hope so much, that the woman can be independently and the men will found their responsibility about the family and the country.
    If I can do anything to help against FGM please let me now!

    I wish you all the best and hope you will answer me.
    Thanks Esther

  6. yasmin July 23, 2014 at 5:40 am #

    It is really good work.Not in Africa and Saudi Arebia, we have to start everyhere agriculture because fertile land going to be concrete land. fertile lang will be changed in concrete because of urbanization in the fertile land. For the change we have to start ourself.

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