The “dramatic trends in large acquisitions of land by multinationals for agricultural purposes as they seek to assure food security for industrialized nations”, as former Botswanan president, Festus Mogae, put it, took centre stage at the High-Level Forum on Land-Based Foreign Direct Investments in Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, on 4-5 October. It was organized by the Land Policy Initiative (LPI), which is comprised of the African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Participants adopted the Nairobi Action Plan, which aims to check the negative repercussions of large-scale land-based investments. As part of that plan, they agreed to promote assessments of large-scale investments in land, including poverty and gender impacts; and to establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism.
At the conference, the Kenyan Minister for Lands, Mr. James Orengo, pointed to a structural reason for current challenges; namely the excessive fragmentation of land in Africa, coupled with the increasing use of marginal lands. These factors have led to serious land degradation and low productivity, and, ultimately, to “high competition for the dwindling resources and eruption of violent conflicts”.
Dr. Kamal El Kheshen, Vice President of the AfDB, suggested two avenues of intra-continental cooperation in order “to ensure that the contracting countries truly benefit from them”. First, he pledged AfDB’s support to African countries in reviewing land deal proposals, in conducting cadastral studies, and in implementing environmental best practices, among others. Second, he spelled out ways to strengthen the Land Policy Initiative, for example by establishing and administering a regional land registry, and by providing institutional support and training on land reform and administration for African countries.
El Kheshen also expressed his support for the voluntary guidelines of the Food and Agriculture Organization and called them a good starting point to which both investors and governments should adhere. If African countries follow his advice and properly implement the measures agreed upon in the Action Plan, we will likely see increased transparency in land deals and less negative repercussions for the local population. (Stephan Wolters)
For the Nairobi Action Plan, please see here.
For the speech by Dr. Kamal El Kheshen, please see here.
Published in: ECC-Newsletter, 5/2011