Is 'land grabbing' good for Africa?

Over the last couple of years, large-scale acquisitions of farmland in Africa, Latin America and Asia have made headlines across the world.

According to a US-based think tank - the International Food Policy Research Institute, nearly $20bn to $30bn a year is being spent by rich countries on land in developing countries.

The investors include some of the world's largest food, financial and car companies.

The issue described as "land grabbing" by its critics has been particularly contentious in sub-Saharan Africa because land there is considered central to identity, food security and livelihoods.

Ethiopia, South Sudan, Mozambique, Liberia, the DRC and Sierra Leone have all signed sizeable land deals with foreign investors.

The host governments and investors say that these investments will lead to economic development; promising employment, infrastructure and social services.

However human rights groups argue that the main beneficiaries of "land grabs" are the foreign investors, because most of them produce commodities for export.

They argue that the land deals are not done transparently, hence creating a breeding ground for corruption.

So is it a land grab or a development opportunity? Is land grabbing actually good for Africa?

BBC Africa Debate will be discussing the issue in Freetown in Sierra Leone.

THE PANEL
Andrew Turay, Project Manager - ADDAX Bioenergy Sierra Leone Limited
A company that has secured land in Makeni for growing sugarcane and cassava for ethanol. The government describes the project as Sierra Leone's flagship agricultural investment.

Dr Sam Sesay, Minister of Agriculture - Government of Sierra Leone

Joseph Rahall, Civil Society Activist campaigning against "land grabbing" in Sierra Leone

The debate will be chaired by Alex Jakana and Justin Rowlatt.

(A dried up river bed near Lodwar, Kenya. Credit: Getty Images)

Available now

55 minutes

Last on

Sat 25 Feb 2012 22:05 GMT