‘Land for Speculation’: how investors are buying up African land

Photo source: Farm Africa
Photo source: Farm Africa

‘Africa is the place for cheap land deals and most investors are from Western countries like the U.S. and UK. Some investors aren’t actually farming and are only interested in land speculation. Investors are looking for annual returns of 20 to 25 percent and many are getting it.’ 

Michael Taylor of the International Land Coalition.

I wonder what % of “land for speculation” is in the hands of African-based investment vehicles? It’s tempting and it’s easy to point the finger at foreign-based investors for sitting on African land for monetary gain only and not farming. We no doubt will have African institutional investors doing the same. The fact that they’re African won’t make such speculation less immoral.

Farming communities on the continent (especially small and medium-sized holders) haven’t got the luxury of many alternatives when their land is allocated to a rich investor. Governments need to remember that their priority is to protect food production, income and the right to land ownership by citizens in their respective countries.

Land is a sensitive issue across Africa for economic, political, cultural and historical reasons. The way these issues are balanced out with the need for productive agricultural sectors will require wisdom. Policy creation should always think critically about 50-100 years from now.

For the land that is currently in foreign hands, I wonder whether we’ll see something similar to Zimbabwe-style* land grabs in future years assuming they don’t sell up in “willing buyer, willing seller” schemes. But that will be difficult. The difference now is that post-independence governments are the ones signing off these deals. The situation was quite different 50, 60, 70 years ago.

*Much of Zimbabwe’s land redistribution happened from Zimbabweans to Zimbabweans, not from foreigners to Zimbabweans.


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