As the Cold War smoldered around them, countries across Asia and Africa sought out one another in hopes of strengthening their ties and redoubling their commitment to non-alignment. In April 1955, representatives from 25 countries across the two continents met in a landmark conference in Bandung, Indonesia. The attendees committed to the basic principles of non-interference, the pursuit of national sovereignty, and co-existence. For China, this represented the start of its now-extensive involvement in Africa.
Foreign direct investments and aid are rarely topics that garner much mainstream press, let alone visceral reactions. China’s recent involvement in Africa, however, has been the exception. Accusations of mineral theft have been widespread, as has, increasingly, the accusation that China is “grabbing” arable African land so that it can feed itself. Despite the certainty with which many respectable media houses, NGOs, and even policy experts argue that theft is occurring, there is a lack of evidence supporting their claim. Furthermore, there is little reliable data on land rights and administration in many parts of Africa, and many countries in the region have weak oversight of land administration.
In the early 20th century, millennia of Chinese imperial rule came to an end, and the country’s first republican government rose to power. The era of republicanism was, however, short-lived. Mao Zedong and his communist party waged war against the Republican government, and forced it to retreat to Taiwan in 1949, where it has remained ever since. Early Chinese involvement in Africa reflected this domestic reality: the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was in competition with the republican government of Taiwan to woo African countries and win support as the legitimate government of China. This wooing happened in the form of investment and aid—particularly that which was related to agriculture. The Republic of China (ROC) launched “Operation Vanguard” in 1961, an initiative designed to assist African countries with agricultural development and food security. By 1971, the ROC has initiated over one hundred agricultural projects, and had deployed more than one thousand agricultural specialists to 24 African countries.
The PRC began investing in agricultural sectors across Africa as it continued its attempts to improve that of mainland China. In the 1950s, it tried to overhaul its agricultural sector via collectivization in the “Great Leap Forward” that proved to be a colossal failure. So the 1960s were a decade in which China began to make small leaps forward in the right direction, and attempted to help parts of Africa do the same. The PRC made more progress in its African projects than the ROC, and was therefore ultimately more successful in gaining support and recognition. The ROC began to scale back international spending. This resulted in many countries, including those in the initial 24-country-strong group of ROC supporters, severing ties with the ROC and pledging their support for the PRC. Early supporters of the PRC enjoyed benefits: in 1965, the PRC aided Tanzania in building the Ruvu State Farm, the Mahonda State Sugar Cane Farm, and the Mbarali Rice Farm Mbaye, each of which was well over 1,000 hectares in size.
The two governments continued to compete for recognition internationally, including in Africa, well into the 1990s. In fact, several countries, including Liberia, the Central African Republic, and Senegal changed allegiances five or more times throughout this period. And in 2013, Gambia’s president controversially severed ties with Taiwan in hopes of establishing relations with the People’s Republic of China. For its part, China has more of an interest in improving relations with Taiwan than it does in establishing them with Gambia. As a result, Gambia now does not have relations with either government.
Sino-African relations became more complex throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as the Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang began to promote the idea of the “Four Principles” that should drive Chinese-African relations: equality and mutual benefit, an emphasis on practical results, diversity in form, and economic development. This was a pivotal shift in attitude, and represented a shift away from an aid-based relationship.
As China began to experience a myriad of internal struggles and obstacles throughout the 1980s, external affairs, particularly with the third world, became less of a priority, and trade efforts as well as Chinese political support against African imperialism dwindled. In the 1990s, following Tiananmen Square and the resulting global hostility, China rekindled old relationships and re-launched development programs across Africa. In 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was formed, which helped to strengthen relations between the two. Most recently, in 2007, the China-Africa Development Fund (CAD) was created to serve as a market-based institution that focuses on African investment. It is China’s largest African-focused private equity fund, and has been a recent target of questions regarding its investors’ behavior, intent, and ethics.
China has a long history of infrastructure investment in Africa, and this remains the country’s most visible legacy to this day. In the 1970s, China constructed the Tanzania-Zambia railway, which linked landlocked, mineral-rich Zambia to the Indian Ocean. China’s aid for the project consisted of a nearly 1 billion RMB (~$1.6 billion USD in 2015) interest-free loan, over 1 million tons of machinery and materials, and 50 thousand laborers to undertake construction efforts. Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, hailed China’s support, and claimed the railway served as “a model for south-south cooperation.”
China continues to be the driving, enabling force behind the construction of African railways. The rail line—currently under construction—linking the coastal city of Mombasa to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and beyond to landlocked Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, and Rwanda is financed by China. According to the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, the line is expected to cut the price of moving one ton of freight from $0.20 to $0.08. Beyond rail, China has had a monumental role in the construction and improvement of roads throughout much of Africa.
The linkages between improved transport networks and agriculture are vast. Improved road networks can help farmers reduce post-harvest losses, by offering them better, quicker access to markets. Both domestic and international trade are made more efficient as a result. Critics of Chinese involvement in African infrastructure projects argue that the investments are done in self-interest only. Improving road and rail networks, the argument goes, just makes it easier for China to extract the resources it needs from African countries. This is true—but it is true more broadly: improved road networks make it easier for everyone to do everything, including China. Improvement of transport networks can therefore be considered a universal good, even if China is directly benefiting from them.
One major infrastructure-related criticism that China has received across the board has been related to employment. In many of its projects, including the construction of a new African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, critics have argued that it could have hired more domestic labor than it did. Sources disagree as to what the ratio of Chinese to Ethiopian construction workers was, but a conservative estimate was 1:1. Many argued that that was too high.
Critics have also brought up the quality of infrastructure being constructed. This obviously varies hugely throughout the continent, and some projects may be poorly constructed while others are well-constructed.
In 2006, Beijing hosted the China-Africa Cooperation Summit, in which the host country again increased its involvement in African agriculture. The summit called for the establishment of 14 agricultural centers, the dispatch of 100 Chinese agricultural experts, and the training of 15,000 individuals. China has added to its commitments across these three fields: creating more agricultural centers than it had promised to, dispatching more experts, and training more individuals. China has also taken an increasingly hands-on role in its work and investment related to African agriculture, leasing and developing land and in many instances being accused of “grabbing” large swathes of it.
In 2008, a French media group reported from an allegedly 14,000-hectare rice investment by a Chinese company, Sino-Cam IKO, in Cameroon and claimed the farm’s operators were exporting produce to China. The article painted a grim picture of the situation, claiming a “Chinese raid on Cameroonian land” and alluded to a developing wave of neo-colonialism. Though the farm itself ended up being a mere 120-hectare rice center, the remnants of an original demonstration from the ROC, the media crew focused on the memorandum of understanding signed between the Chinese company and Cameroon’s government. The MOU would allow Sino-Cam IKO to own upwards of 10,000 hectares of land in total, contingent on the company’s cooperation to build technological training centers and to distribute all rice produced on this land locally. The reporters cited local opposition, detailing bags of rice for sale from the farm in question were destined for China’s market, since the bags had Chinese characters imprinted on them. It is interesting to note that China has been virtually self-sufficient in rice production between 2000 and 2010, while Cameroon’s rice imports have increased roughly 13 per cent between 2006 and 2011, the period in question.
The Sino-Cam IKO example highlights an important distinction noted in a comprehensive report from the FAO, IIED, and IFAD: “there is a big difference between announcing (land) plans and actually acquiring land – let alone starting to cultivate it.” In this case and in the vast majority of others, the actual amount of land that is ultimately acquired through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), especially Chinese FDI, is significantly lower than the total amount of land allotted through MOUs or other terms of agreement. Although dozens of factors can explain this trend, perhaps the simplest are the natural delays between negotiating an agreement, transferring land deeds and rights, and physically cultivating the land. The FAO goes on to say that evidence that suggests Chinese land acquisition is part of a domestic food security strategy is “highly questionable.”
It has long been rumored that the Chinese firm Zhongxing Telecommunications (ZTE) has purchased 3 million hectares of land to develop a palm oil plantation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). But this figure is far from straightforward. Congolese journalists reported that the farm was to be more than 3 million hectares in 2007, and in 2008 the Associated Press cited a similar figure. ZTE representatives and government ministers have, however, contradicted these claims and sometimes even contradicted each other. ZTE’s regional head announced the project would be 1,000,000 hectares, while the Chinese ambassador was quoted at 300,000. Despite these varying figures, only 100,000 hectares was approved by the DRC Council of Ministers; a very sizeable swath of land, but a small fraction of the reported figures. In the end however, ZTE never got the project off the ground. There was and is very little clarity about what happened and what is happening as it relates to ZTE and the DRC, as data on land purchases continues to be lacking. Reporters quote numbers with seemingly little to back them up.
It is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the most notoriously dysfunctional states, that China’s footprint has been particularly visible. It has invested substantially in infrastructure, electricity, and agriculture projects. On the one hand, it makes sense and is thoughtful and benevolent to invest in a country that many other wealthy countries choose to ignore or give up on. On the other hand, this means that no one is able to really scrutinize these investments.
This inability to adequately analyze Chinese agricultural investments is not unique to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rather, this opacity is the crux of the problem: there is not enough information made available by African governments or by Chinese investors. Furthermore, many African countries unfortunately have murky laws on land rights, which are in desperate need of reform. This, in addition to the general dearth of concrete information and data, makes it impossible to know for certain which parties in a conflict are exaggerating or telling the truth.
Relations between Africa and China, particularly those related to agriculture, are complex and constantly evolving. And due to the relatively opaque nature of Chinese investments in particular, it is impossible to make any sort of judgment call as to whether such investments are a “good” or a “bad.”
The complexity and opacity of Sino-African relations do, however, offer some important lessons. First off, how terms are defined is important. A “land grab” is an imprecise and sensationalist term. What is a land grab? Is it a country buying land in another country? Leasing land? Developing land? Is it a land grab if all affected parties know what is happening? There needs to be movement away from empty terms like “land grab” and movement towards precise terms that depict what is happening and why.
Furthermore, uncertainty about who owns land or who has bought land brings to light the shortcomings of land policies in many countries in Africa. In many countries, the amount of undocumented land is staggering, while the processes required to legally transfer deeds are costly and time-consuming. Improving land policies and clarity regarding ownership not only helps average people by offering better security—and by even increasing the productivity of farmers—but it also makes sure that land is not “grabbed” unknowingly.
An interesting idea for some countries might be to implement a sort of transparency initiative related to land. Many countries in Africa, and indeed around the world, are signatories of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which obligates governments and companies to disclose detailed information around payments made related to the extractive industries. Although obviously different in nature, land is also a natural resource and should be governed and overseen stringently. Requiring the adherence to a strict, international standard when it comes to land dealings could be a good step in the right direction.
Earlier this week in Nairobi, headlines were filled with accusations of a land grab. A hotel developer was accused of illegally grabbing land from a primary school during the holidays, and had started erecting walls on the school’s two-acre plot. The attempt to illegally develop this land and ensuing police action caused an uproar that made it to international headlines, and the developer was rightfully required to stand down. Although it seems to ultimately be a happy ending for the primary school, it is still troubling that in even one of the biggest, most developed cities in sub-Saharan Africa, there can be major uncertainties over land ownership, and that people can feel emboldened to take land that is not theirs. Improving land administration throughout the region is essential not only to ensure that foreigners are buying and using land correctly, but also to ensure that citizens are doing so too. In countries with good land administration systems, farmers are able to use their land as collateral and take out loans to afford yield-enhancing inputs. In short, better transparency in land can directly lead to higher agricultural productivity organically with no need for foreign direct investment.
What Information Do We Collect?
The information we gather enables us to personalize, improve and continue to operate the Services. We collect the following types of information from our users.
IP Address Information and Other Information Collected Automatically:
· We automatically receive and record information from your web browser when you interact with the Services, including your IP address and cookie information. This information is used for fighting spam/malware and also to facilitate collection of data concerning your interaction with the Services (e.g., what links you have clicked on).
· Generally, the Services automatically collect usage information, such as the number and frequency of visitors to the Site. We may use this data in aggregate form, that is, as a statistical measure, but not in a manner that would identify you personally. This type of aggregate data enables us and third parties authorized by us to figure out how often individuals use parts of the Services so that we can analyze and improve them.
Information Collected Using Cookies:
· Most browsers have an option for turning off the cookie feature, which will prevent your browser from accepting new cookies, as well as (depending on the sophistication of your browser software) allowing you to decide on acceptance of each new cookie in a variety of ways.
We collect statistical information about how users collectively use the Services (“Aggregate Information”). Some of this information may be derived from Personal Information. This statistical information is not Personal Information and cannot be tied back to you or your web browser.
How, and With Whom, Is My Information Shared?
IP Address Information:
Information You Elect to Share:
We share Aggregate Information with our partners, service providers and other persons with whom we conduct business. We share this type of statistical data so that our partners can understand how and how often people use our Services and their services or websites, which facilitates improving both their services and how our Services interface with them. In addition, these third parties may share with us non-private, aggregated or otherwise non Personal Information about you that they have independently developed or acquired.
Information Shared with Our Agents:
We employ and contract with people and other entities that perform certain tasks on our behalf and who are under our control (our “Agents”). We may need to share Personal Information with our Agents in order to provide products or services to you. Unless we tell you differently, our Agents do not have any right to use Personal Information or other information we share with them beyond what is necessary to assist us. You hereby consent to our sharing of Personal Information with our Agents.
Information Disclosed Pursuant to Business Transfers:
In some cases, we may choose to buy or sell assets. In these types of transactions, user information is typically one of the transferred business assets. Moreover, if we, or substantially all of our assets, were acquired, or if we go out of business or enter bankruptcy, user information would be one of the assets that is transferred or acquired by a third party. You acknowledge that such transfers may occur, and that any acquirer of us or our assets may continue to use your Personal Information as set forth in this policy.
Information Disclosed for Our Protection and the Protection of Others:
Information We Share With Your Consent:
Except as set forth above, you will be notified when your Personal Information may be shared with third parties, and will be able to prevent the sharing of this information.
Is Information About Me Secure?
We store all of our information, including your IP address information, using industry-standard techniques. We do not guarantee or warrant that such techniques will prevent unauthorized access to information about you that we store, Personal Information or otherwise.
What Information of Mine Can I Access?
You can access and delete cookies through your web browser settings.
California Privacy Rights: Under California Civil Code sections 1798.83-1798.84, California residents are entitled to ask us for a notice identifying the categories of personal customer information which we share with our affiliates and/or third parties for marketing purposes, and providing contact information for such affiliates and/or third parties. If you are a California resident and would like a copy of this notice, please submit a written request to the following address: 1156 6th Ave, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10036
What If I Have Questions or Concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns regarding privacy using the Services, please send us a detailed message to email@example.com. We will make every effort to resolve your concerns.
Effective Date: March 11, 2014
b. You shall not (directly or indirectly):i. take any action that imposes or may impose (as determined by us in our sole discretion) an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on our (or our third party providers’) infrastructure;ii. interfere or attempt to interfere with the proper working of the Services or any activities conducted on the Services;iii. bypass, circumvent or attempt to bypass or circumvent any measures we may use to prevent or restrict access to the Services (or other accounts, computer systems or networks connected to the Services);iv. use manual or automated software, devices, or other processes to “crawl” or “spider” any page of the Site;
v. harvest or scrape any Content from the Services;
vi. otherwise take any action in violation of our guidelines and policies;vii. decipher, decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer or otherwise attempt to derive any source code or underlying ideas or algorithms of any part of the Services (including without limitation any application), except to the limited extent applicable laws specifically prohibit such restriction;viii. modify, translate, or otherwise create derivative works of any part of the Services; orix. copy, rent, lease, distribute, or otherwise transfer any of the rights that you receive hereunder.c. We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to:i. satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request;ii. enforce these Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations hereof;
iii. detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues;
iv. respond to user support requests; or
v. protect the rights, property or safety of us, our users and the public.4. Third Party Services. The Services may permit you to link to other websites, services or resources on the Internet, and other websites, services or resources may contain links to the Services. When you access third party resources on the Internet, you do so at your own risk. These other resources are not under our control, and you acknowledge that we are not responsible or liable for the content, functions, accuracy, legality, appropriateness or any other aspect of such websites or resources. The inclusion of any such link does not imply our endorsement or any association between us and their operators. You further acknowledge and agree that we shall not be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any such content, goods or services available on or through any such website or resource.5. Termination. We may terminate your access to all or any part of the Services at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately. All provisions of these Terms of Service which by their nature should survive termination shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, indemnity and limitations of liability.6. Warranty Disclaimer.a. You release us from all liability for you having acquired or not acquired Content through the Services. We make no representations concerning any Content contained in or accessed through the Services, and we will not be responsible or liable for the accuracy, copyright compliance, or legality of material or Content contained in or accessed through the Services.b. THE SERVICES AND CONTENT ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”, “AS AVAILABLE” AND WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT, MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, AND ANY WARRANTIES IMPLIED BY ANY COURSE OF PERFORMANCE OR USAGE OF TRADE, ALL OF WHICH ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. WE, AND OUR DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, SUPPLIERS, PARTNERS AND CONTENT PROVIDERS DO NOT WARRANT THAT: (I) THE SERVICES WILL BE SECURE OR AVAILABLE AT ANY PARTICULAR TIME OR LOCATION; (II) ANY DEFECTS OR ERRORS WILL BE CORRECTED; (III) ANY CONTENT AVAILABLE AT OR THROUGH THE SERVICES IS FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS; OR (IV) THE RESULTS OF USING THE SERVICES WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS.7. Limitation of Liability. IN NO EVENT SHALL WE, NOR OUR DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, PARTNERS, SUPPLIERS OR CONTENT PROVIDERS, BE LIABLE UNDER CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY, NEGLIGENCE OR ANY OTHER LEGAL OR EQUITABLE THEORY WITH RESPECT TO THE SERVICES FOR ANY (I) LOST PROFITS, DATA LOSS, COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, OR SPECIAL, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, COMPENSATORY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER, SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES (HOWEVER ARISING), (II) BUGS, VIRUSES, TROJAN HORSES, OR THE LIKE (REGARDLESS OF THE SOURCE OF ORIGINATION), OR (III) DIRECT DAMAGES IN EXCESS OF $50.00.8. Governing Law and Jurisdiction. These Terms of Service shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, including its conflicts of law rules, and the United States of America. You agree that any dispute arising from or relating to the subject matter of these Terms of Service shall be governed by the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the state and Federal courts of New York County, New York.9. Miscellaneous.a. Modification. We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to modify or replace any of these Terms of Service, or change, suspend, or discontinue the Services at any time. Your continued use of the Services following notification of any changes to these Terms of Service constitutes acceptance of those changes.b. Entire Agreement and Severability. These Terms of Service are the entire agreement between you and us with respect to the Services, including use of the Site, and supersede all prior or contemporaneous communications and proposals (whether oral, written or electronic) between you and us with respect to the Services. If any provision of these Terms of Service is found to be unenforceable or invalid, that provision will be limited or eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that these Terms of Service will otherwise remain in full force and effect and enforceable. The failure of either party to exercise in any respect any right provided for herein shall not be deemed a waiver of any further rights hereunderc. Force Majeure. We shall not be liable for any failure to perform our obligations hereunder where such failure results from any cause beyond our reasonable control, including, without limitation, mechanical, electronic or communications failure or degradation.d. Assignment. These Terms of Service are personal to you, and are not assignable, transferable or sublicensable by you except with our prior written consent. We may assign, transfer or delegate any of our rights and obligations hereunder without consent.e. Agency. No agency, partnership, joint venture, or employment relationship is created as a result of these Terms of Service and neither party has any authority of any kind to bind the other in any respect.f. Notices. Unless otherwise specified in these Term of Service, all notices under these Terms of Service will be in writing and will be deemed to have been duly given when received, if personally delivered or sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested; when receipt is electronically confirmed, if transmitted by facsimile or e-mail; or the day after it is sent, if sent for next day delivery by recognized overnight delivery service. Electronic notices should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. No Waiver. Our failure to enforce any part of these Terms of Service shall not constitute a waiver of our right to later enforce that or any other part of these Terms of Service. Waiver of compliance in any particular instance does not mean that we will waive compliance in the future. In order for any waiver of compliance with these Terms of Service to be binding, we must provide you with written notice of such waiver through one of our authorized representatives.h. Headings. The section and paragraph headings in these Terms of Service are for convenience only and shall not affect their interpretation.Contact. You may contact us at the following address: 1156 6th Ave, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10036.