Developmentafrique, in one of it’s first posts, looked at the emerging investment going into Africa, namely land investments for energy and food security. The global financial crisis allowed deals to go through under the radar, but now that the effects of that episode have abated, more scrutiny will now be placed on the sustainability and impact of these deals. The World Bank has just compiled a report on the deals, the content and findings of the report are interesting to note.
The World Bank report is titled “Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits“, . The report begins on analysing the historical events of land investment in Africa, of particular interest is the identifying of the state of agriculture on the continent in the late 1980′s and 1990′s. In the 1980′s, the report says “almost all African countries had policies that strongly discriminated against agriculture.” This could be explained by the effects of Structural Adjustment Programmes, devised by the Bretton Woods Institutes. The policy bias implemented by governments, led to inadequate investment in agriculture, and fuelled the current urbanization on the continent. There are some examples of large scale land investments going toxic, such as in Sudan and Tanzania, but both fell in the pre and post Structural Adjustment era.
The contents of the report though, do leave open one main point of scepticism, data use. The World Bank in many instances has been unable to obtain primary data from governments and individuals selling/leasing out their land, instead they have obtained secondary data from an NGO study. Whilst there have been some studies undertaken by specialists, in the countries observed, namely Benin; Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia, none have been credited as being represented by the local land authority or government. Therefore, most of the data is based on models, expectations, and not on factual events. The use of econometric modelling on report and assumptions, will put into serious doubt on what is actually happening for a very sensitive issue in Africa.