Friday, September 21, 2012

Fiction and Fact: Chinese Land Grabs in Africa

A chapter I wrote while I was at IFPRI, "Chinese Engagement in African Agriculture: Fiction and Fact," has been published in the Handbook on Land and Water Grabs in Africa (Routledge, 2012). Parts of the chapter are available on Google Books.

In this chapter I contrast the widespread belief that the Chinese are aggressively scooping up land in Africa with the reality of very sparse investment. I'm working on a longer version of this paper that investigates in detail each case that has circulated around the media. Fascinating!

One of my favorites so far is an alleged US$2 bn "Chinese" deal to produce rice in Nigeria circulated in an AERC paper on China and Nigeria. About two minutes of digging into this story revealed that the deal was in fact 2 bn NAIRA (about US$12.7 million) and the company, Vee Tee Group, was Indian, not Chinese...


Anonymous said...

Ask the Ethiopian government which private companies they have rented vast acreage of farmlands to.

You would be surprised.

None of those companies was from China.

Ask the Congolese government (and the Sierra Leone government, the government of Ivory Coast), to which companies they have awarded hundreds of thousands of prime forest land for logging and for planting of palm oil trees.

Again you will be surprised. None of the companies are from China.

And if you read the lists carefully, you might spotted some familiar names, like Cargill.

Victoria Schorr said...

Hello Prof. Brautigam,

Long time follower here and a specialist on African political economy.

I would love to hear your perspective on the supposed "Baoding" farms cited in an older study (2009) by the AfDB (here:’s%20Agricultural%20Land%20Implications%20for%20Rural%20Sector%20Development%20and%20Poverty%20Reduction.pdf). I would suspect that there is nothing formal about them, however, the report seems to imply they are a purposeful manoever and part of this so-called 'land grabs' issue. Given your findings published in African Affairs and in this book, I am intrigued about this claim.

Thank you and keep the great work coming!

Highest regards,

Victoria Schorr

Deborah Brautigam said...

Hi Victoria. Although this is an AFDB publication, consider their sources: two media reports. I have investigated this Baoding story in my book, and also in an article in China Quarterly with Tang Xiaoyang (who took a trip to Baoding to interview the self-promoting Chinese entrepreneur who has made all the claims of Baoding villages). There is no substance to this story. Indeed, as I wrote, Chinese bloggers were the first to be suspicious of these claims: "Baoding Villages: Where are you?"