The British government has been accused of helping to carve up Africain the interests of big business after it emerged that £600m of aid money has been allocated to a G8-sponsored scheme recently described as a new form of colonialism.
The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a partnership between donor countries, multinational companies and 10 African countries, is intended to accelerate responsible investment in African agriculture and help 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.
But critics argue that the alliance is exacerbating poverty and inequality by prioritising its multinational investors over millions of smallholder farmers on the continent.
Since the scheme was launched in 2012, the 10 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania – have made more than 200 policy commitments that will make it easier for companies to do business in Africa.
The Ethiopian government has promised to “refine” its land law to encourage long-term leases and strengthen the enforcement of commercial farm contracts; Malawi and Ghana have agreed to set aside thousands of hectares for commercial investment and Tanzania has committed itself to bolstering private investment in seeds.
A report by the World Development Movement (WDM), the UK-based anti-poverty campaigners, suggests that the conditions imposed on African countries may also contravene the British government’s aid policy, which states: “We will not make our aid conditional on specific policy decisions by partner governments, or attempt to impose policy choices on them.”
According to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the Department for International Development (DfID) by the WDM, the UK has allocated £600m to the alliance between 2012 and 2016.
Nick Dearden, director of the WDM, said: “It’s scandalous that UK aid money is being used to carve up Africa in the interests of big business. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is support to small-scale farmers and fairer distribution of land and resources to give African countries more control over their food systems.
“Africa can produce enough food to feed its people. The problem is that our food system is geared to the luxury tastes of the richest, not the needs of ordinary people. Here the British government is using aid money to make the problem even worse.”
The WDM is urging the British government to abandon the apparent conditionality, to end its support for the alliance, and to rethink its approach to African food production.
The report notes that although sub-Saharan African food production increased by 10% per person between 1991 and 2011, there was a 40% increase in the number of malnourished people over the same period.
“The claim is that the multinational companies involved are ‘investing’, that this will lead to growth and thus an end to poverty and hunger,” says the study. “But many of the products and profits are being exported to developed countries, with the small-scale food producers who feed the majority of the African population losing out.”
A DfID spokesman said: “The only sustainable way to help small-scale farmers escape poverty is to help them get their goods to national and global markets and create better paid jobs. Trade and job creation are the means through which developing countries will become self-sufficient and end their dependency on aid.”