While Africa starves, its leaders change the subject


On March 6, Tristan Voorspuy, a former British army officer and founder of luxury safari company Offbeat Safaris, was shot and killed by pastoral herders in Kenya, while inspecting some of his lodges.

His murder was only the latest in a spate of killings, land invasions and destruction of private property that are, apparently, being incited by local political leaders in the country.

Three days earlier, Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, called for confiscation of farmland without compensation.

These assaults on land rights in both countries are taking place while Zimbabwe’s catastrophic experiment with land expropriation and redistribution is reaching an apparent denouement in the form of widespread starvation. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The issue of land rights in Africa is a complex one.

In many African nations, the farmland was stolen, or purchased under suspiciously generous conditions, by the settlers after the European colonial adventurism revved up toward the end of the 19th century.

On the other hand, the Europeans have become Africa’s most productive farmers, introducing to the continent large-scale farming, better fertilizers and higher yields, and more scientific ways of raising animals.

By producing greater quantities of food more cheaply, they have benefited the local population as well as the national exchequer.

Professor Rondo Cameron wrote in his 1993 book, The Concise Economic History of the World, that Africa was home to 120 million people in 1900.

Today, it is home to 1.2 billion Africans.

Only Latin America experienced comparable population growth during the course of the 20th century.

Moreover, Angus Maddison’s data shows that Africa’s gross domestic product grew by over 1 600 per cent – not a far cry from the GDP growth of over 1 700 per cent in China.

Of course, Africa was starting from a very low base, which explains why Africans remain the world’s poorest people.

Speaking of the original inhabitants of the continent, there is very little evidence that Africans are desperate to farm.

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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