The New Land Grabbers in Africa: US Universities

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Ben Cohen
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A composed satellite photograph of Africa.

Having set back the African continent several hundred years through brutal colonialism, the West is still finding new ways to exploit the region this time through its ultra wealthy universities and its banking system. From the Guardian:

Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land, according to a new study.

Researchers say foreign investors are profiting from "land grabs" that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, and can lead to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world.

The report shows that lack of government regulation on the continent allows Western entities to buy land on the cheap, then exploit it for financial gain (usually farming) irrespective of the damage it does to local communities:

Research by the World Bank and others suggests that nearly 60m hectares – an area the size of France – has been bought or leased by foreign companies in Africa in the past three years.

"Most of these deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms," says the report.

"We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as squatters, are forcibly removed with no compensation."

The exploitation of the poor both domestically and abroad is a symptom of the free market doctrine that advocates unfettered capitalism. Third world countries are less able to control their own economies, so are extremely vulnerable to financial speculators wanting massive returns on their investments. Lack of regulation benefits the wealthy as it allows them to dictate terms and conditions while minimizing their own risk. They can purchase arable land extremely cheaply while reaping rewards by selling the produce back to their own countries at a higher price than the locals can afford. As a result, locals starve, the west gets cheap food, and the universities and banks get richer.

In other words, it's colonialism 2.0.

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