Magazine article Geographical

Point of View

Magazine article Geographical

Point of View

Article excerpt

IN MY OPINION, the new 'scramble for Africa' should be embraced as an opportunity to generate economic growth, alleviate poverty and secure food and energy supplies for the future.

In contrast to the negative picture painted in the Dossier in the August 2011 issue of Geographical (A new colonial carve-up?), land deals being conducted in the frontier regions of sub-Saharan Africa have a great deal to offer the continent.

There is no doubt that there have been some horrific cases of multinational organisations trying to grab land in Africa. In 2008, for example, Daewoo attempted to lease more than one million hectares in Madagascar. But this deal fell through because of the level of suffering that it would have caused to local people.

These kind of land-grab lease deals cannot and do not work. The federal governments and local communities involved aren't stupid. If a deal doesn't have benefits for their country and their people, they won't sanction it. Despite common misconceptions, it takes a lot of negotiation and mutual trust to be able to gain access to land in Africa. Yes, the African people are in need of catalytic fiscal development, but more than anything, they are in need of respect.

Companies working to develop large-scale agricultural enterprises in Africa have been accused of neocolonialism. But if the motive behind historical colonialism was to open up trade routes into the African interior in order to give the African people the opportunity to develop and trade with the rest of the world, is it such a bad thing with which to be associated? Let us remember that David Livingston's ideal was to introduce commerce, Christianity and civilisation by opening up trade routes for agriculture.

Problems arose when this principle was corrupted by greed, and European powers seized control of land for their empires. But if those of us working to develop land today don't seize it through force or bribery, or control it through ownership and governance, then our actions could benefit Africa and its people.

African countries need commerce. The only proven way to do this is through foreign direct investment: international companies can develop infrastructure, create markets and provide associated services to develop wealth organically. As long as all stakeholders benefit and communities aren't exploited, I would argue that this form of neo-colonialism is a good thing.

My company, Bousted Agriculture, has three sites in Zimbabwe's Zambezi Valley with a total area of more than one million hectares. …

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