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China in Africa: The Real Story

Whatever Happened to These Chinese Agricultural Investments?

Deborah Brautigam

I'm at the 2012 African Studies Association Annual Meetings in Philadelphia, where I'm going to present a work-in-progress on Chinese "land grabs" (or not) in Africa, on Saturday. Leaving aside the importance of the issue for African smallholders and subsistence farmers, it's a fascinating project for a researcher. It's also very hard to get good, up-to-date information. This summer I hope to do additional fieldwork on this issue. But summer is a long time away. I thought it might be helpful to see if any readers are already "in the field" or recently returned, and if the blog could post updates from the field. Feel free to email me with information. Here are a few of the projects and puzzles that are still unsolved.

(1) Malibya investment in Mali. This project hit the headlines in 2008 or so, when it was revealed that the government of Mali had offered 100,000 ha in the Office du Niger to a subsidiary of the Libyan sovereign wealth fund, Libyan African Investment Portfolio. Here's a link to the "Convention" signed between Mali and Libya. Subsequently, the project, Malibya, contracted with a Chinese construction company, China, China Geo-engineering Construction Company Group (CGCOC).  CGCOC mainly does construction, but it does some construction under a BOO or BOT model (CGCOC calls this "investment and operation"; others would say "Build, Own, Operate" or "Build, Operate, Transfer").

There is no hint I could see that CGCOC is an investor in the Malibya project. But another Chinese company, the agribusiness firm Yuan Longping High Tech (HLHT), was also involved in the project. Most reports said that YLHT was supplying expertise and seeds. Yet a Chinese language report, on another of China Geo-engineering's websites, said that YLHT had set up a joint venture with 30% ownership:


  20086月,中地几马经理部正式与国家杂交水稻中心主任袁隆平院士签订了合作协议,由中地集团公司和中心联合组成中方,与马里比亚农业公司在马里共同成立马里利中杂交水稻研发与生产合资股份公司。同年11月,合资公司正式注册成立。按公司章程规定,公司的全部资金由利方筹集,利方占70%的股份,中方负责技术和协调,占30%股份。

So far, I haven't found anything else. The project is clearly underway. But who are the investors, Libyans? Chinese and Libyans? If Chinese, which firm(s)? Does Mali have any equity, given their huge contribution of land? If you have information on this project, please share it.

[updates to come]