Infrastructure – who benefits?

Infrastructure – who benefits?

Date: 26 June 2014

During the colonisation of Africa, over a hundred years ago, railways were built to connect the interior to the ports to facilitate the efficient extraction of resources out of Africa. Resources like rubber, copper, coal and cotton were brutally extracted and transported out of Africa to fuel the industrial revolution in Europe. All this facilitated by investment in infrastructure which prioritised routes out to the main ports along Africa’s coast. 

Explore these issues in our 2nd interactive infographic here. 

Today, investment from multinational companies and aid money from rich countries are joining forces once more to build railways which connect the interior of Africa to its ports.

Through ‘agricultural growth corridors,’ investment is flooding in to fund infrastructure which connects rural areas to global markets. On the surface, this sounds like a welcome, much needed initiative in Africa. But the beneficiaries of this investment are multinational companies who will benefit from the infrastructure, start up money and tax breaks to the detriment of small-scale farmers, who feed the majority of the population.

The idea behind the corridors is the development of large tracts of land into large scale commercial farms growing export crops such as biofuels. These areas of rural land would then be connected by infrastructure to the ports for easy export. The backers of the corridors claim that the land is unused and ripe for agricultural production. In fact, most land is already is in use by existing communities and small-scale farmers who are producing food for local people. The loss of land inevitably means the loss of sustainable livelihoods and the availability of food for the local community. Most of the areas being targeted tend to be those with the most fertile and productive land with infrastructure already in place. 

UK aid is contributing £41m to the Tanzanian corridor. Here, there has already been concerns around land grabbing among local people who say that the land is already in use. The Tanzanian government have also noted concerns around risks to biodiversity, risks to small-scale producers, inadequate representation of women and endemic corruption in their impact report on the corridor. Small-scale farmers and development groups have also criticised the agricultural growth corridor project in Tanzania.

Local communities around the corridors are well aware that these corridors are for the benefit of corporations and have been active in their resistance. In Mozambique, members of UNAC (União Nacional dos Camponeses de Moçambique, the National Union of Small-scale Farmers of Mozambique) have been vocal in their opposition to the corridor in Mozambique. In 2012 they published a statement condemning the initiative and recently a national campaign against the project was launched. 

Check out our agribusiness campaign to stop the corporate take-over of Africa’s food and our latest infographic in our ‘New Scramble for Africa’ series which shows the parallels around the agenda of resource extraction in Africa   – past and present.

This is the second infographic in the ‘New Scramble for Africa’ series. Click here to see the first infograpahic.