One of the campaigners outside Downing Street – where the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor live – holds up a cake of Africa with New Alliance countries marked out with flags. Photo: WDM
One of the campaigners outside Downing Street – where the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor live – holds up a cake of Africa with New Alliance countries marked out with flags. Photo: WDM

Huge tracts of land in African countries with access to the sea and high economic growth are being targeted by corporations such as Monsanto and Unilever with help from the British and American governments –including millions of dollars that are intended for helping the poor, says a report published today by UK campaigning group World Development Movement.

The document, titled Carving up a continent: How the UK government is facilitating the corporate takeover of African food systems, explains that a G8 initiative called the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is using money intended for poverty reduction to instead ease access to key African locations for some of the world’s biggest companies, which already control much of the global food market.

Doublespeak and the new “scramble for Africa”

What’s more, the New Alliance agreements signed with ten key African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania) are conditional, and many of them require the country in question to bring legislation – for example, revising seed laws to force small farmers to buy seeds and fertilisers from the corporates rather than seed sharing, which has been practised for generations and ensures biodiversity.

Under the new paradigm, multinationals gain access to fertile land and agricultural corridors on the pretext of tackling food poverty and helping Africa’s starving and needy. In reality this is doublespeak. If the New Alliance continues unchecked, it’s likely that problems are stored up for the future, as small scale and family farmers are forced off their land to make way for industrial scale crop production. WDM also identifies issues such as insecure and poorly paid jobs and a focus on producing for export markets rather than to feed local populations.

The report’s introduction, by WDM director Nick Dearden, says: “This is an old story given new impetus. More than a century ago the ‘scramble for Africa’ was instituted under the pretence of civilising the continent. Barbaric crimes were committed and the continent systematically de-developed because it profited Europe. Since that time, Africa’s problem has never been a lack of integration into the international economy – the problem is how it is integrated and in whose interests.”

Campaigners protest outside the UK Department for International Development. Photo: WDM
Campaigners protest outside the UK Department for International Development. Photo: WDM

Using money intended for poverty reduction to ease access to key African locations

Oblivious citizens

This isn’t the first time the New Alliance has come under fire – the Guardian newspaper published a critical piece last year. But the general populations of the countries whose taxpayers are supporting this power grab are woefully unaware that it is even happening, and so too are the citizens in whose countries these events are unfolding. This despite the fact that a whopping £600 million of UK aid money, for example, via the Department for International Development (DFID), is being channelled into this between 2012 and 2016.

Ironically this comes at a time when alternatives to the industrialisation of agriculture are being explored worldwide, and as the realities of climate change are being better understood. Africa is a place where new models of permaculture could meet old models of sustainable farming and cooperation to leapfrog the West – finding sustainable and locally owned solutions to nutritious food production.

The ‘scramble for Africa’ was instituted under the pretence of civilising the continent


The wheels are already turning
But this hangs in the balance. Many New Alliance partnership countries, such as Malawi, have already instituted many of the changes demanded as part of their agreement, and it has become much easier for foreign corporations to buy great tracts of land. Ghana recently saw the Plant Breeders’ Bill being pushed through its Parliament by politicians that Food Sovereignty Ghana implied might be on the take.

The corporations involved in the New Alliance are huge – Monsanto, Unilever, Syngenta, DuPont, Cargill, Diageo, SABMiller, Coca Cola, Yara. The last company – Yara – may not be a name you recognise, but is the largest global manufacturer of fertiliser. According to the WDM report, these agrochemicals “already cause serious levels of food poisoning in sub-Saharan Africa, with the UN estimating that health problems linked to pesticides could cost the region $90 billon between 2005 and 2020. Fertilisers also damage soil, leading farmers to rely on them even more in order to maintain production, which increases their risk of getting into debt.”

“The tragic consequences of small-scale farmers’ reliance on fertilisers in India have been much reported. An estimated 250,000 farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2010 after getting into debt through buying agrochemicals.”

Campaigners representing the New Alliance multinationals carve and eat up Africa. Why no protests anywhere in Africa? Because most of us are oblivious to what’s being done behind our backs, is the simple answer. Photo: WDM
Campaigners representing the New Alliance multinationals carve and eat up Africa. Why no protests anywhere in Africa? Because most of us are oblivious to what’s being done behind our backs, is the simple answer. Photo: WDM

Under the guise of charity

Remember that old development chestnut “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Show him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? The New Alliance seems to be about snapping his fishing rod in half, throwing it into the sea and telling him that you now own the sea and he must buy his fish from you, at wildly fluctuating prices. And it’s under the guise of charity.

The ‘scramble for Africa’ was instituted under the pretence of civilising the continent
Yet look at the personnel. Unilever’s external affairs director was previously at DFID and DFID’s director of policy used to work for Unilever. Meanwhile, for all the talk of wanting to solve African hunger, the chosen countries are almost all coastal, and tend to have high economic growth. Of the countries in Africa that have the worst hunger index scores, only one – Ethiopia – is a New Alliance country.

While all the players talk about poverty reduction and food security, the reality is that the path that will have the most positive effect for African farmers and populations long term is food sovereignty. That means ownership and control of land and non-reliance on imported seeds and foods, as well as being able to adjust crops to need. It might be tempting to apply the machine logic of industrialisation to agriculture and scale it up, on the basis that more food grown equals more people fed. But in reality the problem of hunger is not one to do with volume of food produced worldwide – rather it’s to do with existing unjust systems of food production and distribution. These are the very systems that the New Alliance is desperate to bring to Africa.

Other players are the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, set up by the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Gates Foundation; the New Vision for Agriculture, launched by the World Economic Forum and led by 33 multinationals from Monsanto to Walmart; and Grow Africa, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum and the African Union.

Of course, the New Alliance does have its defenders. Namely, international pop gimp Bono’s ONE Foundation, which hit the headlines a few years ago for giving a whopping 1% of its funds to actual charity…

In its 2013 report Growing Africa: Unlocking the potential of agribusiness the World Bank said: “Africa represents the ‘last frontier’ in global food and agricultural markets.” Once Africa’s greatest commodity to line the pockets of its pillagers was its human capital. Now they’re coming for the land, and the sustenance it offers. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

By Grace Kiwanga

Source: This is Africa

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Wow poor Africans we’re being hunted ,curved up and eaten by the big powers once again without our consent.

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  2. AFRICANS PROBLEMS ARE OUR OWN CREATION. WE HAVE ALLOWED OURSELVES TO BE EXPLOITED AND ABUSED BECAUSE OF OUR NAIVETY, DOCILITY, LAIZINESS AND JUST S.T.U.P.I.D.I.T.Y. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US. WE REFUSE TO THINK FOR OURSELVES BUT ALLOW OTHERS TO THINK FOR US. WE ELECT MEDIOCRE, INEPT, SELFISH, CORRUPT AND INCOMPETENT LEADERS BECAUSE WE CAN’T THINK BEYOND OUR TRIBE. WE HAVE USELESS ECONOMISTS AND ENGINEERS WHO CAN’T EVEN BUILD A TOILET. CHINESE ARE NOW BEING CONTRACTED TO BUILD TOILETS IN OUR BACK YARDS. ALWAYS EXCUSES AND BLAMING OTHERS FOR OUR OWN SHORT COMINGS. WE SHOULD DO AWAY WITH THIS BLAME MENTALITY AND TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY OF OUR FATE. WHAT DID IT TAKE SINGAPORE TO BECOME A DEVELOPPED COUNTRY? COMPETENT AND VISIONARY LEADERSHIP.

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    • Africans are not Naive, we are Stu.pid, especially Zambians. The corruption starts from grass root to plot 1, how can we not be exploited? Land has become a serious issue with PF cadres selling it to foreigners like underwear. It’s a shame that we have leadership with no vision.

      Same old stories with no moving forward..

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    • WE NEED A RADICAL CHANGE OF THE MIND SET. WE NEED TO BUILD CONFIDENCE IN OURSELVES AS AFRICANS. WE NEED TO RISE ABOVE THE PETTY ISSUES OF TRIBE, NEGATIVE CULTURES, CHIEFDOM AND REGION. WE NEED TO BUILD NATIONAL PRIDE. WE NEED TO APPRECIATE OURSELVES AND LOOK DOWN UPON POVERTY. WE NEED TO BUILD AND PROMOTE NATIONAL VALUES. ABOVE ALL WE NEED TO GIVE OURSELVES COMPETENT AND CAPABLE LEADERS TO STEER OUR COUNTRIES TO HIGHER LEVELS. WE SHOULD STOP GLORIFYING AND PROMOTING MEDIOCRITY.

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  3. TO SUPPORT WHAT I HAVE SAID ABOVE, LOOK AT OUR OWN SCANDAL IN ZAMBIA. WE HAVE SO MANY RIVERS AND LAKES AND YET WE FIND IT NORMAL TO IMPORT FISH FROM CHINA. WE HAVE FAILED TO BENEFIT FROM OUR MINERAL RESOURCES BECAUSE OUR LEADERS THINK AND WE HAVE AGREED WITH THEM THAT IT IS LUNACY TO DEMAND FOR A FAIR SHARE FROM OUR RESOURCES. EMERALDS HAVE GONE TO ENRICH OTHER PEOPLE. WE FIND IT LOGICAL AND NORMAL TO HAVE CHINESE AND LEBANESE RUN RESTAURANTS AT OUR DIRTY MARKETS AND SELL NSHIMA TO US. WE FIND IT ACCEPTABLE FOR LEBANESE TO SELL HUMAN HAIR TO OUR WOMEN. MOST OF THESE “INVESTORS” ARE HERE TO SELL DRUGS WITH THE HELP OF DEC TO OUR CHILDREN AND WE FIND NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. WHO GIVES THEM PERMITS AND VISAS? OUR OWN IMMIGRATION OFFICERS. PATHETIC! WE HAVE SO MANY RETIRED ARMY, POLICE…

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  4. WE HAVE SO MANY RETIRED ARMY, POLICE AND SECURITY OFFICERS YET THE SECURITY COMPANIES IN ZAMBIA ARE OWNED BY FOREIGNERS. THINK OF IT! SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA, CHINA AND SOUTH KOREA TO BE WHERE THEY ARE TODAY HAD TO INVEST HEAVILY IN THE INTELECTUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR PEOPLE YET N ZAMBIA OUR LEADERS BELIEVE THAT IT IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENT TO EDUCATE PEOPLE. WE HAVE ACCEPTED THIS SENSI.LESS STATE OF AFFAIRS AS NORMAL.

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  5. LET US NOW LOOK AT THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP MEDIOCRITY IN ZAMBIA. WE HAVE BRILLIANT BRAINS SUCH AS DR. CALEB FUNDANGA, PROF. NSAAZA, MAGANDE, DR. MWABA AT HEALTH, BRILLIANT BRAINS LANGUISHING IN OUR RUNDOWN UNIVERSITIES, OTHERS TEACHING ABROAD: ALL OF THEM WAITING AND PRAYING TO BE APPOINTED BY THOSE IN LEADERSHIP WHO ARE FAR MUCH BELOW THEM. THESE CREAM OF ZAMBIA WERE EDUCATED AND TRAINED TO TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE TO LEAD AND DEVELOP THE COUNTRY BUT THE OPPOSITE HAS HAPPENED. LOOK AT THE LEADERS THAT YOU HAVE: E.L. LUNGU, KAMBWILI, SHAMENDA, KAZUNGA, KAWANDAMI, KAPATA, THE INSOLENT PHIRI, CHAMA, COWARDS LIKE SIMBYAKULA, FOSSILS LIKE CHIKWANDA, ETC.: ALL VISIONLESS, BRAINLESS, INEPT AND CORRUPT. HONESTLY, DO YOU EXPECT THE COUNTRY TO DEVELOP UNDER THIS SITUATION? ZERO! TO DEVELOP AFRICA…

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  6. Yes all those “big brains” but where are they? The same big brains are the stooges of the multinationals. They push forward useless people like Jameson so they can manipulate them. They don’t want their hands dirty so they will give you tinpot dictators like Kagame. Africa has well over ten real currency billionaires but how many of them have their businesses domiciled on the continent? The west make us kill our own brains so they can keep controlling our resources.

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  7. Its same with Chinese focus is to grow their economy by having economic Zones across resource continents in countries traditionally seen to support CHINAs interest Its not only the west but CHINA Connecting the World Through “Belt & Road”

    Chinas economy cannot grow without multi facility economic Zones dotted across with supply lines to power their Industries

    The SILK ROAD should be reversed with economic focus on value addition in Africa Industries

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  8. WDM changed its name to ‘Global Integrity Now’ on 1 January 2015. Lusaka Times: why publish this tired piece about what WDM was doing about the plunderers of Africa over a year ago?

    But Mambulwa is so right. There needs to be a radical change in the way Zambia governs itself. But you have to get rid of the multi-party system with it first past the post electoral race for power, its flawed constitution without safeguards for the citizenry against the powers of an endless succession of ‘Big Man’ Presidents – the latest being the louche Lungu. In a recent address, Issa Shivji (Lessons of Bandung and Pan-Africanism) hit the nail on the head:

    “Africa’s comprador ruling classes and educated middle class are so compromised by imperialism that they are incapable of providing the…

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  9. Africa’s comprador ruling classes and educated middle class are so compromised by imperialism that they are incapable of providing the revolutionary leadership required for the continent’s true liberation. The only possible alternative is that of the working people. They need an ideology, organisation and leadership to constitute an alternative political bloc.
    Issa Shivji – Lessons of Bandung and Pan-Africanism.

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  10. Problem is… when we will make ends meet, and create a dynamic, self-sufficient economy, our leaders will end up like Gadaffi. Our countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and our people in suffering never before experienced.

    They control the media, they control the hearts and minds, they control the world.

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