Pan African MPs urge action on foreign land investors

Thursday October 11 2012

By Njeri Rugene in Midrand, South Africa [email protected]

Members of the Pan African Parliament have called for a radical shift in land management to stem the wave of land aquisition by foreign investors in Africa.

Two committees in the assembly are calling for a joint continental mechanism to deal with with what they described as "the new wave of investments known for their magnitude as landgrabs.''

Members of the committees argued that Africa's land is targeted by foreign investors because of failure by government's to protect indigenous users.

"It should be noted that the unprecedented land rush has not been subjeced to sufficient regulation or control with a view to preventing land grab. This phenomenon, far from benefitting the local populations has compromised the human rights of citizens and more particulary women who have seen themselves deprived of their means of subsitence and are being displaced from their territory,'' said Mr Henri Gbone, chairperson of the committee on agriculture, natural resources, rural economy and environment in a presentation to the House.

He added: "We are ready to accept investments in the acquisition of land. But that has to be done in a responsible manner. They must follow regulations which are understood by the public.''

His counterpart, Nigeria's Yaya Olaniran, chairperson of committee on world food security, was confident a joint continental mechanism of enforcing land regulations against foreign investors is viable.

"We can no longer leave it to national governments alone because it has not worked in decades. What we are now advocating is a paradigm shift, a completely new way of doing things. We are talking about a new and transparent and accountable conditions of land acquisition to protect our people,'' said Mr Olanira who is Nigeria's permanent representative to FAO.

"Land is life, food is life in Africa. There is no time for ambiquity," said Mr Gabriel Smith, an MP from Liberia about the planned regulation.

Consequently, the Pan African Parliament has asked members countries to respond urgently by implementing land reforms and policies on good governance.

They propose that member states implement legislation on direct foreign and local investments relating to land and water resources.

African governments were asked to improve their systems of certification and registration of land. The MPs also called for an establishment of a council of ministers to address land investments in the continent.