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OAKLAND INSTITUTE: The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture June 9, 2016

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Odaa OromooOakland Institute



The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa. unholy_alliance_web

Five Western donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the US, UK, Danish, and Dutch governments, are bankrolling the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, implemented by the World Bank. The EBA’s goal is to help create “policies that facilitate doing business in agriculture and increase the investment attractiveness and competitiveness of countries.”1 To achieve this, the EBA benchmarks areas including seeds, fertilizers, markets, transport, machinery, and finance, to determine whether or not countries’ laws facilitate doing business in agriculture. The EBA exemplifies a growing trend in international donors’ aid programs, which have become powerful instruments to impose a market-based, pro-private sector vision of agriculture. Following the 2007-2008 food price crisis, G8 members gathered at L’Aquila summit in Italy and pledged to support country-owned food security strategies. However, it did not take long for this commitment to give way to aid programs that, instead of supporting robust national agriculture policies, favor private sector-led and market-driven food systems. In 2012, the G8 members launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), an initiative that gives a central place to agroindustry and agrochemical companies, to the detriment of family farmers.2 Africa, the site of NAFSN implementation, is a primary target of the pro-corporate push by several Western donors. The continent is marked by the proliferation of bilateral and multilateral initiatives to support the expansion of agribusinesses and the increased use of industrial inputs (synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid and genetically modified seeds, etc.). The US, UK, Danish, and Dutch governments are providing direct financing through business grants and other support mechanisms such as loans and insurance to agribusinesses operating in Africa. Often, the recipients of aid money are national companies with an assumed goal to combine aid with commercial interests. In parallel, rising amounts of taxpayers’ money is flowing into multilaterally funded entities such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), active in training, research, and advocacy around the use of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers. AGRA is also a vehicle used to manage multi-donor initiatives such as the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF),3 which is investing in large-scale agricultural projects and industrial production of agricultural inputs. With the creation of the NAFSN, in which the EBA is entrenched,4 donors are increasingly conditioning their aid to African countries to policy reforms and measures that will facilitate the corporate takeover of their agriculture. The five donors of the EBA are spearheading an aggressive campaign, aimed at pushing to expand agribusiness activity in Africa through the takeover of land for commercial agriculture, opening of countries’ input markets, privatizing of seed systems, and reforms of agricultural trade and tax laws to boost corporate profit. The donors believe that an “agricultural transformation” based on global trade and agroindustry will increase economic growth and provide better incomes to farmers.5 But the impacts of such a transformation are likely to be devastating for the majority of African farmers. Rising pressure on land and natural resources; dependence on expensive and polluting agricultural inputs; increased vulnerability to climate shocks; criminalization of seed saving and exchange practices; and weakened government ability to support national agriculture are among the outcomes that the five donors investigated in this report will deliver to the continent.

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