Guest post by Christine Haigh, campaigner at the World Development Movement
This week a group of smartly dressed executives from major companies including Unilever and Diageo (brewers of Guinness) delivered a cake to the UK government’s Department for International Development. The cake, made in the shape of Africa, was a gift to say thank-you to development secretary Justine Greening for her department’s support for their business interests there.
Sound unlikely? Yes and no. The ‘executives’ were actually global justice campaigners from the World Development Movement. But we were there to highlight how the UK’s aid money genuinely is being used to enable multinational companies to take over African markets and resources. Our gift was inspired by the words of King Leopold II of Belgium who played a major role in African colonisation, writing to his ambassador in 1877: “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.”
The stunt took place to expose how hundreds of millions of pounds from the UK aid budget are being channelled through a scheme called the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Dreamed up by the US government and supported by the UK at last year’s G8 summit, the scheme sounds laudable. Unfortunately, despite its name, it is likely to make hunger and inequality worse for the African countries involved.
The New Alliance is essentially a deal between big companies, developed countries and African governments. In return for continued aid money from rich country governments and investment by companies in their own businesses, African governments are being told to reform their land, seed and trade laws to benefit big business. These changes are bad news for the small-scale farmers who feed most of the African population.
For example, African governments are being asked to make it easier for foreign companies to buy up tracts of land, fuelling land-grabbing which sees families pushed off their land, losing their homes and livelihoods. Africa has already seen an area bigger than Spain sold or leased since 2001.
The changes will also see the privatisation of seeds, with restrictions on farmers’ ability to save and exchange seeds for varieties suited to their local environment and instead forcing them to purchase seed from big seed companies like Monsanto. In addition, some of the African countries involved in the scheme are having to change their trade rules to make it easier for food to be exported, even if it is needed by their own population.
African farmers groups and campaigners have condemned the scheme as part of “a new wave of colonialism,” and we’re standing in solidarity with them. We want the UK government to withdraw from this damaging scheme, and instead use aid money to support the local farmers who feed the majority of Africa’s population. You can support us by signing our petition and spreading the word. Join the campaign today!
The World Development Movement is a UK based, anti-poverty campaigning organisation. We lobby decision-makers, organise public campaigning and produce robust research to win change for the world‘s poorest people.