|African leaders in Ethiopia land
afrol News, 28
January - Several
African leaders have bought lands in Ethiopia to develop
agricultural projects or tourism resorts. They are let
to bypass a 2007 ban on export of cereals, still in
place for other investors.
Land management course in
Mekelle Univ/afrol News
It has earlier been known that
former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasansjo and current
Djiboutian President Ismael Omar Guelleh privately have
bought up large properties in Ethiopia. Also the
Egyptian Prime Minister managed to buy large
agricultural land tracts in Ethiopia on behalf of his
However, a US Embassy cable from February last year,
released by Wikileaks today, indicates that several of
these underreported deals operate in the grey zone of
Following a food crisis in 2007, Ethiopia "temporarily"
banned all exports of cereals. The ban has never been
formally lifted. Still, both the Egyptian government
project and Djiboutian President Guelleh have been
allowed to export cereals cultivated on the lands sold
to them by the Ethiopian government.
"It appears Saudi, Djiboutian, and now Egyptian
investors have somehow bypassed this ban," the US
Embassy report from Addis Ababa said. Meanwhile other
investors had informed Embassy staff "that they have not
been allowed to export cereal grains."
President Guelleh recently acquired the right to develop
about 2.5 acres of lakeside land in Debrezeit to build a
hotel. This acquisition added to the 7,400 acres of
farmland Mr Guelleh leased in 2009 in Bale, Oromia
region. "According to post's conversations with local
agricultural business investors and press reports, this
farm has already harvested wheat and other cereals for
export to Djibouti," the report said.
The Egyptians had followed the same path, according to
the official US source. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed
Nazif, heading a large top-end delegation, last year
announced that the state-owned National Bank of Egypt
planned to invest US$ 40 million in the lease of 49,400
acres of land in the Afar region to grow cereals. Also
these cereals "would be exported to Egypt," it was
The US diplomat also noted that the Egyptian National
Bank also was "poised to open an office in Ethiopia" and
to offer credits to six Ethiopian banks. But, the
domestic banking sector is closed to foreign banks. "It
is unclear how the National Bank of Egypt could offer
credit in Ethiopia in evident violation of banking and
financial regulations," the US Ambassador notes.
Other recent major investors in Ethiopian agricultural
land had included the South African private equity fund
Agri-Vie. The company had acquired 3,000 acres of land
and company was last year already in the process of
establishing fruit production and processing operations.
The company was to target the juice markets in Europe
and the Middle East.
Among the most prominent investors in Ethiopian lands
was Nigerian ex-President Obasanjo, whose actions were
keenly followed by US Embassy staff, the report reveals.
Mr Obasanjo had "recently leased about five acres of
land near Debrezeit, Oromia region (about 50 kilometres
east of Addis Ababa) to develop a hotel and tourist
destination," the report said.
The US Ambassador also discussed the criticism against
the land grab in Ethiopia, with several claiming it
would further jeopardise the critical food security
situation in the country. He however agrees with
Ethiopian authorities that a commercialisation of the
agricultural sector and foreign investment were
Nevertheless, he commented that Ethiopia's new land
lease policy was "a long way from proving its worth as a
vehicle" for the national economy. It was not
"generating foreign exchange reserves" at a larger
level, indicating the prices achieved in the deals
brokered by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi himself were too
By staff writer
© afrol News
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