“Congo Opening Its Doors to Agrobusiness”
The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2014, p.C3
“The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to lease farmland covering an area larger than France in an attempt to attract capital and technology capable of boosting jobs and food productivity in one of the world’s poorest countries. Congo may lease as much as 640,000 square kilometers (247,100 square miles), or more than one-quarter of the central African nation, according to John Ulimwengu, an adviser to the Congolese prime minister who is organizing the project. The land is scattered across Congo, which is rich in mineral resources, forests, cultivable soil and water, including the Congo River, Africa’s second-longest after the Nile. The government wants investors to transform the country’s subsistence farming. The farmland will be leased rather than sold outright in a bid to avoid future conflicts with investors who might be accused of land-grabbing. Memories of colonial injustice abound on the African continent. Investors from China to the United Arab Emirates and Western nations are buying African land as they search for yield and productive assets. … The government plans to initially develop 21 agribusiness parks that will provide food, employment and a market for the produce of nearby small-scale farmers, Mr. Ulimwengu said. Infrastructure including power, water and roads will be provided by the government, which plans to sell 25-year leases to the land. The leases may be longer if new legislation is passed.”
Quickie Analysis: It’s hard to see Congo dodging the usual problems of land seizure, corruption, and abuse of the poor that accompany land-lease schemes in Africa.