Neocolonialism with Elbow Patches

I just read over at The Guardian that universities in the US are “investing” heavily in African land. Now I have a great example to use teaching the next time colonialism and neocolonialism come up in class.

Harvard: not for free.

Apparently the universities of Harvard, Vanderbilt, and “other major American universities” have purchased millions of hectares of land in various African countries. I was not able to locate what other universities are doing this. They are in the process of the “conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy” based on food, timber, and other natural resources. Much of the land is purchased through South African institutions so tracking down the investors has been somewhat difficult.

Of course, universities aren’t the only entities getting in on the action. Major multinational corporations and regular corporations have been doing this for some time now. In one such case, the Oakland Institute, a think tank examining such “investments,” reports that Emergent Asset Management (EmVest for short) already holds land in five countries and plans to invest in fourteen more. EmVest is getting a great deal—low or non-existent taxes, cheap land, cheap labor, and the cooperation of local governments.

Such government-private cooperation is not benefiting the locals. Villagers in Matabu have told the Oakland Institute that they were forced to relinquish their land. They said, “The conflict is because EmVest wants land where people live and farm. But we need this land for our children and to feed ourselves.”

But, EmVest and these investments will be bring jobs corporations argue. Indeed? Actually, in all of the land that EmVest is snapping up, they will hire a whopping 18 full-time workers and 100 seasonals. That sounds like a great swap. Importantly, working regulations have been left “unspecified.” I’m sure those new hires can look forward to great benefits and treatment.

King Leopold II

You, too, can get in on the action . . . if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting around. A quick google search produced this gem, “HedgeNews Africa,” among others, just asking for your investment. Look how nice those white folk look. They don’t look at all like this guy:

The highlight of HedgeNews Africa? First, they present an article where economists point out Africa has the highest returns on investments. Of course, the article says everything without saying anything. But second, is the quote on the top right, featuring one Richard B­öttger of the impressive-sounding Tower Capital: “The best part about a recession is that it trims the excesses, and weeds out the weak.” Yep, Social Darwinsim like it never disappeared.

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