Dispossession of local communities in the name of investment: Large scale public-private partnership (mega-PPPs) in Africa

Odaa Oromoo



In the context of weak land governance and insecure land tenure (estimates suggest that per cent of rural land in Africa is registered), there is a serious risk that mega-PPPs will lead to the dispossession or expropriation of local communities in the name of investment.


Inequality is already significant in Africa. Measurements such as the Gini-coefficient show that inequality on the continent is second only to Latin America in its severity. Land transfers to investors threaten to worsen this inequality by creating ‘agricultural dualism’ between large and small farms. This process will remove already diminishing plots of land from family farmers; while the co-existence of large and small farms has been shown to drive inequality and conflict in other contexts.Also, equitable agricultural development requires diverse forms of support to account for ‘different rural worlds’, including contract oversight for commercial producers, the development of local markets for poorer farmers, and job-creation and social protection for marginal groups.

Mega-PPP projects are unlikely to deliver this type of agenda, instead focussing on wealthier, more ‘commercially viable’ farmers and bigger, politically well-connected companies.



Not So Mega?

The risky business of large-scale PPPs in African agriculture

By Robin Willoughby*


At a large summit on the future of African agriculture last week, the buzzwords were ‘investment opportunities’, ‘transformation’ and ‘public-private partnerships.’

Despite the worthy aims of the hosts ‘A Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA)’, discussion of poverty, rights, gender or inequality was rather absent from the plenary.

The risks of large scale public-private partnership (mega-PPPs) are enormous, particularly in the areas targeted for investment. Huge land transfers are a core component of the mega-PPP agenda.

Mega-PPP projects are focussing less on the needs of poor small-scale farmers and more on wealthier, more ‘commercially viable’ farmers and bigger, politically well-connected companies.

Last week, I attended a large summit on the future of African agriculture in Addis Ababa, hosted by A Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA).My participation really made me reflect on the problems of ‘groupthink’ within these types of conference, with each of the participants taking it in turns to stand on the podium and agree with one another more and more vociferously. The buzzwords were ‘investment opportunities’, ‘transformation’ and ‘public-private partnerships.’

This narrative is to be expected at a private sector agri-investment conference – but seems confusing when this type of meet-up is designed by philanthropic organisations to address rural poverty and the widespread challenges in African farming. Despite the worthy aims of AGRA, discussion of poverty, rights, gender or inequality was almost entirely absent from the plenary.

As one of the other participants said to me: “if everything is going so well – why are we all here?”

At the summit, I launched an Oxfam Briefing Paper on large-scale public-private partnerships initiatives, which echoes some of these themes.

The report points out that despite the large amount of hype around mega-PPPs such as the New Alliance for Food Security and NutritionGROW Africa, and numerous growth corridor initiatives – there is very little robust evidence on the proposed benefits of these arrangements, around who bears the risks or who holds the power in decision making.

So where do the risks and benefits lie?

The paper shows that public-private partnerships can play an important role in supporting farmers. For example, smaller-scale initiatives such as micro-credit, weather-index insurance and attempts to link farmers into markets offer useful examples of PPPs – particularly when they are co-designed with end-users and local communities.

Oxfam’s work with consumer goods company Unilever in a targeted partnership called Project Sunrise shows that well-designed partnerships can also be used for innovation and learning.

But the risks of mega-PPPs are enormous, particularly in the areas targeted for investment.

Threats to land rights
Land transfers are a core component of the mega-PPP agenda. The total amount of land pegged for investment within just five countries hosting growth corridor initiatives (Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana and Burkina Faso) stands at over 750,000 km² – the size of a country such as France or Ukraine.

Not all of this land will be leased to investors, but the initial offering in these countries stands at 12,500 km² (over 1.2 million hectares) – the amount of land currently in agricultural production in Senegal or Zambia.

In the context of weak land governance and insecure land tenure (estimates suggest that per cent of rural land in Africa is registered), there is a serious risk that mega-PPPs will lead to the dispossession or expropriation of local communities in the name of investment.

The pricing of land can also be set at extraordinarily low levels. The GROW Africa initiative advertised land for lease in Mozambique for $1 per hectare per annum over 50 years. This is around 2,000 times cheaper than comparable land in Brazil – raising concerns that African governments are seriously undervaluing their core assets.

Worsening inequality
Inequality is already significant in Africa. Measurements such as the Gini-coefficient show that inequality on the continent is second only to Latin America in its severity.

Land transfers to investors threaten to worsen this inequality by creating ‘agricultural dualism’ between large and small farms. This process will remove already diminishing plots of land from family farmers; while the co-existence of large and small farms has been shown to drive inequality and conflict in other contexts.

Also, equitable agricultural development requires diverse forms of support to account for ‘different rural worlds’, including contract oversight for commercial producers, the development of local markets for poorer farmers, and job-creation and social protection for marginal groups.

Mega-PPP projects are unlikely to deliver this type of agenda, instead focussing on wealthier, more ‘commercially viable’ farmers and bigger, politically well-connected companies.

Asymmetries of power
Finally, for any form of large-scale public-private partnership to be effective, it requires effective governance to ensure a fair sharing of risks and benefits; and regulation to ensure that more powerful players do not use political and economic clout to capture a dominant position in the market.

These conditions of good governance do not exist, on the whole, in most African countries.

The asymmetries of power within these arrangements can be enormous. In the SAGCOT programme (a mega-PPP in Tanzania), four large seed and agrichemical companies involved in the initiative have combined annual revenues of nearly US$100 billion. That is more than triple the size of the Tanzanian economy.

This raises serious concerns that these companies could lobby for policies that are in their interest and squeeze out small- and medium size enterprise from burgeoning domestic markets.

What are the alternatives?
Is there an alternative to the mega-PPP vision of agricultural development? I think so:

Public sector investment in research and development, extension services and targeted subsidies for credit can spread the benefits of agricultural investment widely and encourage private sector participation in the sector. Currently, governments in Sub-Saharan Africa only spend 5 per cent of their total annual budget on the sector, which is unforgivably low.

Securing land rights for local communities. This will help to ensure that communities within the target area for these schemes are not dispossessed in the name of investment. Secure land tenure also encourages smallholders to invest for themselves in land and productive activities.

Finally, alternative business models such as the development of producer organisations and the clever use of subsidies to encourage local processing facilities can develop agricultural markets without the need for ‘hub’ plantation farms or growth corridors. These models should be explored in more depth as part of a more inclusive PPP agenda.

With some US$6 billion of donor aid committed to further the aims of the New Alliance and $1.5 billion earmarked for growth corridor initiatives, mega-PPPs lead to a fundamental question. Would this money be better spent on lower risk models of agricultural development that give a greater share of the benefits to the poor?

Read more @http://naiforum.org/2014/09/not-so-mega/


*Robin Willoughby is Food and Climate Justice policy adviser at Oxfam GB and leader of Oxfam International’s agricultural investment policy work.

Attention to Ethiopia (Africa): Corruption ‘impoverishes and kills millions’


Corruption ‘impoverishes and kills millions’


Pile of dollars (file picture)
BBC (4 September 2014) The ONE group says money lost because of corruption would otherwise be spent on school and medicine. An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners.A report by the anti-poverty organisation One says much of the progress made over the past two decades in tackling extreme poverty has been put at risk by corruption and crime.

Corrupt activities include the use of phantom firms and money laundering. The report blames corruption for 3.6 million deaths every year.

If action were taken to end secrecy that allows corruption to thrive – and if the recovered revenues were invested in health – the group calculates that many deaths could be prevented in low-income countries.

Corruption is overshadowing natural disasters and disease as the scourge of poor countries, the report says.

One describes its findings as a “trillion dollar scandal”.

“Corruption inhibits private investment, reduces economic growth, increases the cost of doing business and can lead to political instability,” the report says.

“But in developing countries, corruption is a killer. When governments are deprived of their own resources to invest in health care, food security or essential infrastructure, it costs lives and the biggest toll is on children.”

The report says that if corruption was eradicated in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Education would be provided to an additional 10 million children per year
  • Money would be available to pay for an additional 500,000 primary school teachers
  • Antiretroviral drugs for more than 11 million people with HIV/Aids would be provided

One is urging G-20 leaders meeting in Australia in November to take various measures to tackle the problem including making information public about who owns companies and trusts to prevent them being used to launder money and conceal the identity of criminals.

It is advocating the introduction of mandatory reporting laws for the oil, gas and mining sectors so that countries’ natural resources “are not effectively stolen from the people living above them”.

It is recommending action against tax evaders “so that developing countries have the information they need to collect the taxes they are due” and more open government so that people can hold authorities accountable for the delivery of essential services.

Read more @ original source:



False accounting & the great ‘poverty reduction’ lie



Exposing the great ‘poverty reduction’ lie

Jason Hickel* @ Aljazeera Opinion


The UN claims that its Millennium Development Campaign has reduced poverty globally, an assertion that is far from true.



The received wisdom comes to us from all directions: Poverty rates are declining and extreme poverty will soon be eradicated. The World Bank, the governments of wealthy countries, and – most importantly – the United Nations Millennium Campaign all agree on this narrative. Relax, they tell us. The world is getting better, thanks to the spread of free market capitalism and western aid. Development is working, and soon, one day in the very near future, poverty will be no more.

It is a comforting story, but unfortunately it is just not true. Poverty is not disappearing as quickly as they say. In fact, according to some measures, poverty has been getting significantly worse. If we are to be serious about eradicating poverty, we need to cut through the sugarcoating and face up to some hard facts.

False accounting

The most powerful expression of the poverty reduction narrative comes from the UN’s Millennium Campaign. Building on the Millennium Declaration of 2000, the Campaign’s main goal has been to reduce global poverty by half by 2015 – an objective that it proudly claims to have achieved ahead of schedule. But if we look beyond the celebratory rhetoric, it becomes clear that this assertion is deeply misleading.

The world’s governments first pledged to end extreme poverty during the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996. They committed to reducing the number of undernourished people by half before 2015, which, given the population at the time, meant slashing the poverty headcount by 836 million. Many critics claimed that this goal was inadequate given that, with the right redistributive policies, extreme poverty could be ended much more quickly.

But instead of making the goals more robust, global leaders surreptitiously diluted it. Yale professor and development watchdog Thomas Pogge points out that when the Millennium Declaration was signed, the goal was rewritten as “Millennium Developmental Goal 1″ (MDG-1) and was altered to halve the proportion (as opposed to the absolute number) of the world’s people living on less than a dollar a day. By shifting the focus to income levels and switching from absolute numbers to proportional ones, the target became much easier to achieve. Given the rate of population growth, the new goal was effectively reduced by 167 million. And that was just the beginning.

After the UN General Assembly adopted MDG-1, the goal was diluted two more times. First, they changed it from halving the proportion of impoverished people in the world to halving the proportion of impoverished people in developing countries, thus taking advantage of an even faster-growing demographic denominator. Second, they moved the baseline of analysis from 2000 back to 1990, thus retroactively including all poverty reduction accomplished by China throughout the 1990s, due in no part whatsoever to the Millennium Campaign.

This statistical sleight-of-hand narrowed the target by a further 324 million. So what started as a goal to reduce the poverty headcount by 836 million has magically become only 345 million – less than half the original number. Having dramatically redefined the goal, the Millennium Campaign can claim that poverty has been halved when in fact it has not. The triumphalist narrative hailing the death of poverty rests on an illusion of deceitful accounting.

Poor numbers

But there’s more. Not only have the goalposts been moved, the definition of poverty itself has been massaged in a way that serves the poverty reduction narrative. What is considered the threshold for poverty – the “poverty line” – is normally calculated by each nation for itself, and is supposed to reflect what an average human adult needs to subsist. In 1990, Martin Ravallion, an Australian economist at the World Bank, noticed that the poverty lines of a group of the world’s poorest countries clustered around $1 per day. On Ravallion’s recommendation, the World Bank adopted this as the first-ever International Poverty Line (IPL).

But the IPL proved to be somewhat troublesome. Using this threshold, the World Bank announced in its 2000 annual report that “the absolute number of those living on $1 per day or less continues to increase. The worldwide total rose from 1.2 billion in 1987 to 1.5 billion today and, if recent trends persist, will reach 1.9 billion by 2015.” This was alarming news, especially because it suggested that the free-market reforms imposed by the World Bank and the IMF on Global South countries during the 1980s and 1990s in the name of “development” were actually making things worse.

This amounted to a PR nightmare for the World Bank. Not long after the report was released, however, their story changed dramatically and they announced the exact opposite news: While poverty had been increasing steadily for some two centuries, they said, the introduction of free-market policies had actually reduced the number of impoverished people by 400 million between 1981 and 2001.

This new story was possible because the Bank shifted the IPL from the original $1.02 (at 1985 PPP) to $1.08 (at 1993 PPP), which, given inflation, was lower in real terms. With this tiny change – a flick of an economist’s wrist – the world was magically getting better, and the Bank’s PR problem was instantly averted. This new IPL is the one that the Millennium Campaign chose to adopt.

The IPL was changed a second time in 2008, to $1.25 (at 2005 PPP). And once again the story improved overnight. The $1.08 IPL made it seem as though the poverty headcount had been reduced by 316 million people between 1990 and 2005. But the new IPL – even lower than the last, in real terms – inflated the number to 437 million, creating the illusion that an additional 121 million souls had been “saved” from the jaws of debilitating poverty. Not surprisingly, the Millennium Campaign adopted the new IPL, which allowed it to claim yet further chimerical gains.

A more honest view of poverty

We need to seriously rethink these poverty metrics. The dollar-a-day IPL is based on the national poverty lines of the 15 poorest countries, but these lines provide a poor foundation given that many are set by bureaucrats with very little data. More importantly, they tell us nothing about what poverty is like in wealthier countries. A 1990 survey in Sri Lanka found that 35 percent of the population fell under the national poverty line. But the World Bank, using the IPL, reported only 4 percent in the same year. In other words, the IPL makes poverty seem much less serious than it actually is.

The present IPL theoretically reflects what $1.25 could buy in the United States in 2005. But people who live in the US know it is impossible to survive on this amount. The prospect is laughable. In fact, the US government itself calculatedthat in 2005 the average person needed at least $4.50 per day simply to meet minimum nutritional requirements. The same story can be told in many other countries, where a dollar a day is inadequate for human existence. In India, for example, children living just above the IPL still have a 60 percent chance of being malnourished.

According to Peter Edwards of Newcastle University, if people are to achieve normal life expectancy, they need roughly double the current IPL, or a minimum of $2.50 per day. But adopting this higher standard would seriously undermine the poverty reduction narrative. An IPL of $2.50 shows a poverty headcount of around 3.1 billion, almost triple what the World Bank and the Millennium Campaign would have us believe. It also shows that poverty is getting worse, not better, with nearly 353 million more people impoverished today than in 1981. With China taken out of the equation, that number shoots up to 852 million.

Some economists go further and advocate for an IPL of $5 or even $10 – the upper boundary suggested by the World Bank. At this standard, we see that some 5.1 billion people – nearly 80 percent of the world’s population – are living in poverty today. And the number is rising.

These more accurate parameters suggest that the story of global poverty is much worse than the spin doctored versions we are accustomed to hearing. The $1.25 threshold is absurdly low, but it remains in favour because it is the only baseline that shows any progress in the fight against poverty, and therefore justifies the present economic order. Every other line tells the opposite story. In fact, even the $1.25 line shows that, without factoring China, the poverty headcount is worsening, with 108 million people added to the ranks of the poor since 1981. All of this calls the triumphalist narrative into question.

A call for change

This is a pressing concern; the UN is currently negotiating the new Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Campaign in 2015, and they are set to use the same dishonest poverty metrics as before. They will leverage the “poverty reduction” story to argue for business as usual: stick with the status quo and things will keep getting better. We need to demand more. If the Sustainable Development Goals are to have any real value, they need to begin with a more honest poverty line – at least $2.50 per day – and instate rules to preclude the kind of deceit that the World Bank and the Millennium Campaign have practised to date.

Eradicating poverty in this more meaningful sense will require more than just using aid to tinker around the edges of the problem. It will require changing the rules of the global economy to make it fairer for the world’s majority. Rich country governments will resist such changes with all their might. But epic problems require courageous solutions, and, with 2015 fast approaching, the moment to act is now. Read more @original source http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/exposing-great-poverty-reductio-201481211590729809.html

*Dr Jason Hickel lectures at the London School of Economics and serves as an adviser to /The Rules. 

Is Poverty the fault, crime, of the poor?


Odaa Oromoo






The truth is that humanity must now confront, not just poverty, but a convergence of mega crises, all of which are deeply interconnected: Government corruption; ecological destabilization; structural debt; and hyper-consumerism established in the west and rapidly expanding worldwide.






Right now, a long and complicated process is underway to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015, with new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These will set the parameters for international development for the next 15 years and every government, UN agency, large corporation and NGO, not to mention billions of citizens on the planet have a stake.

Judging by what’s being produced, though, we have a serious problem. The best way to describe it is with an old joke: There’s a man driving through the countryside, trying to find a nearby town. He’s desperately lost and so when he sees a woman by the side of the road he pulls over and asks for directions. The woman scratches her head and says, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.”

The best evidence of where the SDGs are starting from is the so-called “Zero Draft” document, first released on 3 June and currently undergoing exhaustive consultation.

First things to note are the big differences with the MDGs. Most strikingly, the SDGs suggest an end to poverty is possible in the next 15 years, whereas the MDGs aimed at halving it. The implication is that we’ve made amazing progress and are now on the home stretch. Secondly, the SDGs get serious about climate change. This is a major paradigm shift and, what’s more, they aim squarely at the heart of the problem: patterns of production and consumption. Impressive. Thirdly, reducing inequality “within and between” countries is included, with a goal of its own. This suggests another paradigm shift, and a controversial one because it opens the door, just a crack, to the idea that the extremely rich might be making an undue amount of their money off the backs of the extremely poor.

Of these three goals, it is fairly certain that two will disappear before the process concludes. There is no way the world’s rich governments and corporations will allow a meaningful challenge to production and consumption patterns, or a focus on reducing inequality. This is a given.

However, there is an even more important problem in the Zero Draft document which is that the very starting point of the issue is profoundly misconceived. How do we know? Because of the language. Language is a code that contains a lot more than its literal meaning, and an analysis of semantic frames in the Zero Draft exposes the logic upon which it is built.

Let’s take the opening paragraph:

“Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. We are therefore committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.”

Poverty can be conceptualised in many ways and in this passage it is presented as both a preventable disease (“to be eradicated”) and as a prison (“to free humanity from”). In both, the framing reveals the framers’ view, conscious or otherwise, on causation. Diseases are just part of the natural world, so if poverty is a disease, it suggest that it is something for which no-one is to blame. The logic of a prison meanwhile is that people are in it for committing a crime. The former denies the idea that human actions may be a cause of inequality and poverty; the latter invokes the idea that poverty is the fault – the crime – of the poor.

Also note the phrase: “the greatest global challenge.” This asserts a logic in which there is a hierarchy of individual issues based on relative importance, with poverty at the top. The truth, however, is that humanity must confront a convergence of mega-crises all of which are deeply interconnected. Government corruption, ecological destabilisation, structural debt, hyper-consumerism established in the West and rapidly expanding in the east and south, for example, are all closely linked. But framing poverty as “the greatest global challenge” conceals the web of interconnected systems and removes them from consideration. The result: No systemic solutions can arise from a logic that denies systemic problems.

There is a good reason for this: it protects the status quo. This logic validates the current system and ordering of power by excusing it of blame and says it can, indeed must, continue business as usual. This is the logic of the corporate capitalist system.

There’s no denying that some excellent progress has been made since 1990 – the year the MDGs measure from – but you don’t need to deny that to know there is something fundamentally wrong with a global economy in which, at a time when wealth grew by 66%, the ratio of average incomes of the richest 5% and the poorest 20% rose from 202:1 to 275:1. Or that the reality masked by the ratios is that one third of all deaths since 1990 (432 million) have been poverty-related. Using UN figures, that’s more than double the combined deaths from the Two World Wars, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Stalin’s purges, and all military and civilian deaths from the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. What’s more, even though we are now seeing around 400,000 deaths every year from climate change, we are pumping 61% more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere annually than we were in 1990.

The point is that, in light of the logic the language exposes – and we have mentioned just two of many possible examples telling the same story – any glorification of the SDGs we hear over the next year must be seen as reinforcing the logic their language contains.

To really tackle poverty, inequality and climate change, we would need to change that logic to one that is built on an acceptance of how much these problems are the result of human actions. And that the fact of living in poverty makes no inherent comment whatsoever on the person or people concerned, other than that they live in poverty. This in turn would make a wholly different type and scale of change feel like common sense. For example, it would feel obvious to work towards taxing carbon emissions at source and putting in place sanctions against those responsible for hoardingat least $26 trillion in tax havens. We would instinctively reach to introduce laws that give local authorities everywhere the right to revoke corporate charters for serious social or environmental misdeeds anywhere. And the big one: money. Ridiculous though it may sound, right now we allow private banks to control the supply of US dollars, euros and other major currencies that surge through the global economy. These banks charge everyone, including governments, interest on every note, thereby guaranteeing that a constant river of money flows into their coffers, along with immense power. But unfortunately, none of these issues will make it into the SDGs because they contradict the current, dominant logic, and what’s more, because they might actually work and redistribute power and wealth more equitably.

We compound our problems when we allow ourselves to be drawn into processes like the SDG-design are turning out to be. Every ounce of credence given to their frames helps weigh down the center of debate far from where it needs to be. Until the UN can use its powers, resources and privileges to promote policies that grow from the logic of its highest ideals, we may help it, the planet and each other best by divesting our attention from it and finding avenues for change that can.

This article was originally published by Common Dreams.

Read more @ http://commondreams.org/views/2014/08/06/hidden-shallows-global-poverty-eradication-efforts