Africa Crop Investors Urged to Be ‘Wary’ of Worsening Conflicts

Investors in African land should be wary of conflicts in Ethiopia and Sudan if they plan to use fields in the countries to grow crops for export, said Jason Mosley, a senior analyst on Africa at Oxford Analytica.

Outside investors are buying land to grow crops for export, according to a report by Mosley, released today by London-based international affairs researcher Chatham House. Foreign investments in African land could worsen current conflicts or create new ones, he said.

“Given the potential for existing local drivers of violence to be exacerbated by such projects, investors should be wary of the prospect of becoming embroiled in these dynamics, or caught between the state and local communities should grievances escalate into conflict,” Mosley said in the report.

The scale of foreign investment in African land isn’t clear as information from Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan is “extremely limited,” according to the report. Saying governments are victims of land grabs by foreign investors is an oversimplification, Mosley said.

“Little clear information has emerged about the intentions of the would-be investors, whether they are motivated by speculation on the potential value of the land in the future, or actually intend to move forward with the mooted projects,” he said in the report.

Long-running conflicts in the Horn of Africa ranging from large wars between countries to civil wars to small-scale pastoral disputes indicate the potential for agricultural endeavors to create or worsen strife in the region, Mosley said.

South Sudan Investments

“There is the potential for large-scale agricultural projects to exacerbate or create tensions over the land in question between the investors and the local population, or between local communities,” he said.

In the newly formed South Sudan, large-scale agricultural investments have been reported, “some of enormous proportions,” according to the report. The country’s fledgling government, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, probably isn’t equipped to handle such investments, so investors may align with alternative political powers, Mosley said.

Investors may “align with opposition political movements that, while co-opted at present, may more seriously challenge the SPLM for control,” he said. “If alternative political power centers emerge in South Sudan, large-scale land projects could become a focal point for dissent.”

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