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Nutrition in Africa: New colonialism?

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Nutrition in Africa: New colonialism?

A number of local African civil society organisations, including the African Centre for Biosafety and Biowatch South Africa, also vehemently oppose the G8NA. The two civil society groups have since joined forces with seven others to condemn what they term as a “new wave of colonialism”. They argue that Africa is seen as a new frontier to make profits “with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular”.

In a widely circulated statement, the civil society groups called for the current investment wave to be understood in the context of a “consolidation of a global food regime dominated by large corporations in input-supply [seed and agrochemicals] especially, but also increasingly, in processing, storage, trading and distribution.”

While acknowledging, like many others, that African agriculture and food security is in need of support and investment, African civil society groups are wary of the solutions being provided. “Many initiatives are flowing from the North, including the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). These initiatives are framed in terms of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). This gives them a cover of legitimacy,” says an African civil society statement, before asking: “But what is driving these investments, and who is set to benefit from them?”

According to the statement: “The current wave of investment emerges on the back of the gathering global crisis with financial, economic, food, energy and ecological dimensions. Africa is seen as underperforming and in control of valuable resources that capital seeks for profitable purposes … opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits lies at the heart of the G8 and AGRA interventions. Both initiatives are built on the basis of public-private partnerships (PPPs) with the large multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies setting the agenda, and states and institutions (like the G8, World Bank and others) and philanthropic institutions (like AGRA and others) establishing the institutional and infrastructural mechanisms to realise this agenda.”

But that is not all. The statement explains further how multinational corporations want to secure markets for their products in Africa by any means necessary, particularly so their private ownership of knowledge in the form of intellectual property (IP) protection.

“Across Africa, so-called ‘harmonisation’ of laws and policies is underway to align African laws and systems with the interests of these multinationals,” the civil societies argue, adding that private ownership of knowledge and material resources (for example, seed and genetic materials) means an inordinate flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations. 
In some countries where laws protecting the interests of corporations are well established – for example in South Africa – multinationals have entirely occupied domestic seed and agrochemical sectors with profits flowing out of the country. The same is happening with agricultural services, trade, manufacturing, and even the selling of food. But above all, and perhaps tellingly, the statement concludes:

“The private companies are not acting on their own. They are using investment-friendly [African] government policies and plans to advance their agenda…

“African governments, desperate for some financial relief, are willing to make whatever changes are necessary to bring capital into their countries. The multinationals are setting the terms: harmonisation, free trade, and protection of private IP or no investment. It is therefore of little use calling for CAADP to be placed at the centre of agricultural investment plans. CAADP itself is a compromised instrument, calling for the very policies and programmes favoured by the multinationals.”

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