African land-lease deals need more transparency, Botswana’s Mogae says

Festus Mogae (Photo: Flickr)

Bloomberg | Jun 8, 2011

By Mike Cohen

Large-scale land deals in Africa have been characterized by a lack of transparency, making it impossible to assess their benefits, according to Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana.

“We are concerned that it appears in many of the cases, the governments have not consulted adequately,” Mogae told reporters in Lisbon yesterday, ahead of the African Development Bank’s annual general meeting. “We are in favor of foreign investment. It should come on appropriate terms.”

About 45 million hectares (111 million acres) of farmland were leased in the two years through 2009, compared with an average pre-2008 rate of 4 million hectares a year, the World Bank said in a report released in September. More than 70 percent of the deals were in Africa, most of them in Sudan, Mozambique, Liberia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Madagascar.

The rush to secure African agricultural land, which has been led by China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, has been driven by concerns about food security and rising grain prices.

“Private foreign investors are leasing or buying or borrowing huge chunks of agricultural land in African countries,” said Mogae, who is the chairman of the Coalition for Dialogue for Africa, a lobby group. “The terms and conditions under which these investments are made” need to be disclosed.

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