As discussed elsewhere in this blog, land rights NGOs and observers of land issues in Africa are raising serious concerns about the contemporary ‘land grab’ in which rich world corporations and sovereign wealth funds and governments are acquiring land for agricultural production. The latest news on this score is that South Korea’s state-run Korea Rural Community Corporation (RCC) has agreed to purchase land in Tanzania. About 100 square kilometres of land will is involved in the deal, which will see production of processed foods such as cooking oil, wine and starch. In an interesting twist to the story of colonial- and post-colonial era land grabbing in Africa, the South Korean officials have pointed out that part of the problem facing African countries – and the niche the Koreans seek to fill – is that not enough value-adding occurs in Africa; that is, food is produced but not processed in Africa (think here of the geography of chocolate: beans grown in West Africa but processed in Belgium, say!). According to the Koreans, then: “Some African countries export fruit and import fruit juice, or export olives and import olive oil, simply because their past colonialists did not teach them how to process food.” Enter the generous Korean RCC to address the problem. Is it benevolence or an astute business sense that drives their interest in Tanzania?
Land grab continues