Inverse globalisation?

The global agricultural trade system andAsian investments in African land and water resources

Authored by: Martin Keulertz , Suvi Sojamo

Handbook of Land and Water Grabs in Africa

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  September  2012

Print ISBN: 9781857436693
eBook ISBN: 9780203110942
Adobe ISBN:


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In the past few years, a growing body of literature has been discussing the drivers of the most recent foreign interest in investing in African land and water resources. However, despite attempts by numerous academics and researchers (e.g. Cotula et al. 2009; Cotula and Vermeulen 2009; Spieldoch and Murphy 2009; Robertson and Pinstrup-Andersen 2010; Zoomers 2010) to provide a comprehensive assessment, the drivers of the rush in farmland phenomenon have not yet been effectively addressed. The aim of this chapter is to shed light on the current distorted global food market and its underlying fundamentals. We will argue that the ‘free market rhetoric’ of the Western world has largely benefited certain corporations in the world agro-food system. At a time of increasing global food security concerns, investments may also be perceived as an attempt to counter Western-inflicted trade relations and, as a result, concentrated corporate power within the private agribusiness sector by emerging economies as a form of ‘inverse globalisation’. Africa, the continent with vast and still underdeveloped water and soil resources tied to land suitable for agricultural production, may become one arena for the competition in a distorted and protected global food market. The first-order problem looming above ‘land grabs’ is the world agro-food system that emerged after the Second World War fuelled with government subsidies. The crucial resource to explain why this system is unsustainable is water, which is particularly scarce in investing economies because of climate change and an untapped resource in sub-Sahara Africa. We argue that ‘land grabs’ are therefore a product of the current structure of global food trade.

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