Monday, October 05, 2009

China investing in African Agriculture

From the Asian Times:

China's growing appetite for African resources over the last decade is well documented. Indeed, China's massive industrial machine relies on oil from Angola, Sudan, and Nigeria, and minerals from South Africa, Zambia, and Liberia. While China maintains that its trade relationship with Africa is benign, some commentators see China's investment as a resource grab. In 2006, South African president Thabo Mbeki was notably frank when he warned that Africa could fall into a "colonial relationship" with China, leaving Africa "condemned to underdevelopment".

The latest iteration of the Sino-African relationship involves China's burgeoning interest in African agricultural resources...

Between 1995 and 2005, China provided at least US$12.5 billion in aid to Africa, canceled billions of dollars in debt, and constructed new roads, schools, government buildings, stadiums and hospitals across the continent. In return, Africa now supplies a third of China's oil...


China has indeed begun to put down substantial agricultural roots on the African continent. China's investment in Mozambique illustrates both its commitment to the agricultural sector and the diversity of Chinese investment in Africa. Through a series of agreements, China has pledged $800 million to modernize Mozambique's agricultural infrastructure and has financed the building of a dam and canal to bring water to arable land. Additionally, at least 100 Chinese agricultural experts are stationed in several research stations within Mozambique, working with local groups to increase crop yield and otherwise improve the performance of the agricultural sector. .... One estimate from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce puts the number of Chinese experts in Africa at over 1,100 and the number of farm laborers at over 1 million, dispersed throughout 18 countries. These Chinese experts help maintain at least 11 agricultural research stations and no less than 63 agricultural investment projects scattered over southern and eastern Africa....

(The criticism is that they will plant rice and ship it home, not help the African people)

In March 2009, the Chinese Academy of Agriculture (CCA) began a project funded by the Gates Foundation entitled "Green Super Rice for the Resource Poor of Asia and Africa". The project will bring high-yield rice varieties designed to withstand drought, flooding, harsh weather, and various toxins, to seven African countries. Working with several international organizations - including the Africa Rice Center - the CCA estimates that the project will increase rice production by 20% and will help feed 20 million poverty-stricken farmers in participating countries.

The height of irony: While western NGO's promote traditional farming, it is China that just might introduce the green revolution into Africa...

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