Wikileaks: Foreign land grap in Ethiopia


The latest Wikileaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables contains the American embassy’s assessment of Meles Zenawi’s giveaway of Ethiopian land to foreign investors. Read the full text below:

NCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 000247

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E JWIEGERT; AF/EPS – ABREITER AND GMALLORY; EEB/IFD/OMA – JWINKLER AND EEB/CBA – DWINSTEAD; EEB/TPP/BTA DEPARTMENT PASS TO USTR FOR PATRICK COLEMAN, BARBARA GRYNIEWWICZ
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA MARIA RIVERO
DEPT OF TREASURY FOR REBECCA KLEIN
USAID FOR AFR/EA – HELLYER, DALTON, AFR/SD – CURTIS; EGAT – JHESTER,
JYASMAN AND GMYERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EINV ETRD ECON EFIN BEXP AF ET
SUBJECT: FOREIGN INVESTORS GRAB UP MORE LAND IN ETHIOPIA

REF: 09 ADDIS ABABA 2900

ADDIS ABAB 00000247 001.2 OF 002

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Government of Ethiopia’s (GoE) recent high profile land deals and shift in agricultural policy (reftel) have attracted additional foreign investors to the agricultural and
tourism sectors. In January, Egyptian Prime Minster Dr. Ahmed Nazif led a large delegation to Ethiopia to announce the National Bank of Egypt’s lease of 49,400 acres of land to grow cereals. Press reports indicated that these cereals are headed for export to Egypt. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Djiboutian President Ismael Omar Guelleh separately leased land plots to build hotels outside of Addis Ababa, while Guelleh already leases a 7,400 acre farm that started exporting wheat back to Djibouti last year. Finally, the South African private equity investment fund Agri-Vie invested USD 3.5 million in a company that is growing and processing various fruits to manufacture juice products. These juice products will primarily target the European and the Middle Eastern markets as reported by the company to Econoff. Despite the benefits of increased foreign investment, political opposition members and international critics remain skeptical about the GoE’s motives and the land policy’s affect on poor, rural Ethiopians. End Summary.

Egyptians Eye Investment Opportunities
————————————–

¶2. (U) The Egyptian Prime Minister, Dr. Ahmed Nazif, led the latest charge of foreign agricultural investment during a January visit to Ethiopia. Nazif, alongside his delegation of several cabinet
ministers and 26 agricultural companies, announced that the state-owned National Bank of Egypt plans to invest USD 40 million in the lease of 49,400 acres of land in the Afar region to grow
cereals. Press reports stated that these cereals would be exported to Egypt despite the GoE’s 2007 “temporary” export ban on all cereals that has never been formally lifted. (Note: It appears
Saudi, Djiboutian, and now Egyptian investors have somehow bypassed this ban, while other investors informed Econoff that they have not been allowed to export cereal grains (reftel). End Note.) The bank is also poised to open an office in Ethiopia to serve existing and new Egyptian projects and plans to offer credit of USD 14.6 million to six Ethiopian banks according to local press reports. (Note: the domestic banking sector is closed to foreign banks; however, other foreign banks such as Germany’s Commerzbank do have offices in Ethiopia to facilitate relations with Ethiopian banks. It is unclear how the National Bank of Egypt could offer credit in Ethiopia in evident violation of banking and financial regulations. End Note.) Beyond the focus on agriculture, Nazif signed a memorandum of understanding with GoE Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to form an Ethio-Egypt Council of Commerce. Meles said during the signing ceremony that relations between Ethiopia and Egypt had evolved from distrust towards friendly cooperation. Other areas of
Egyptian business interest included livestock, drug manufacturing, and hydroelectric power.

Former Nigerian President and Djiboutian President Also Invest
——————————————— ——

¶3. (U) Another foreign VIP seen around town and looking for land was the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo recently leased about five acres of land near Debrezeit, Oromia region (about 50 kilometers east of Addis Ababa) to develop a hotel and tourist destination. In addition, current Djiboutian President Ismael Omar 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 Guelleh leased last year 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.

Private Equity Fund Invests in Fruit Juice Farm
——————————————— —

ADDIS ABAB 00000247 002.2 OF 002

¶4. (U) South African private equity fund Agri-Vie has also chosen to
invest in Ethiopia’s agricultural sector. The fund invested USD 3.5
million in africaJUICE, a company already in the process of
establishing fruit production and processing operations when Econoff
visited its 3,000 acre operation last year. The Dutch and British
company representatives reported to Econoff that it plans to target
the juice markets in Europe and the Middle East. The company
purchased this farm (not the land) from the GoE and converted it to
produce yellow passion fruit, mango, and papaya.

Critics Concerned About Rural Population
—————————————-

¶5. (U) As more reports of foreign land leases in Ethiopia surface,
the GoE continues to insist local farmers will not be adversely
affected by its land deals. Regarding agricultural investment, the
GoE views foreign investor involvement as key to the country’s move
from subsistence to commercial farming (reftel). On top of any
potential damage to local farmers, international and political
opposition party critics cite concerns over exporting food from a
country that relies so heavily on imported food aid and the
perceived low wages that foreign investors pay its employees.
Merara Gudina, Chairman of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity
Forum (a coalition of political opposition parties), accused the GoE
of using its land “giveaway” policy to hold on to power and to buy
diplomatic support. U.S.-based GoE opposition movement Ginbot 7
stated in a January editorial that the GoE needs to change its
communist land policy and empower local farmers, who have the
potential to produce a marketable surplus. The editorial further
noted that any land deal that has not been agreed to by the
Ethiopian people will not be honored by future elected governments.

Comment
——-

¶6. (SBU) The GoE clearly needed to shift its agricultural policy in
order to make effective use of its vast amounts of fertile land, and
the agricultural policy mix being implemented is viewed by most
experts as a step in the right direction. However, that evolving
policy is a long way from proving its worth as a vehicle for
achieving the GoE’s stated goals of modernizing the sector,
generating foreign exchange reserves, and increasing the domestic
food supply. End Comment.

YATES


3 thoughts on “Wikileaks: Foreign land grap in Ethiopia

  1. Takele on

    Selam ER
    There are several Ethiopians could orginze their finaincial capacity and invest on the agricultural sector. TPLF has a hiden motive in leasing the land for foreign investors. First of all, it would be very easy to TPLF to steal and funnel money to its’ bank account via a foreign agent rather than an Ethiopian investor. Besides, TPLF is using the fertile land of the country for shopping diplomacy from the dictators for emergency needs. If an uprising happen in Ethiopia, those foreign states who have a stake would line up to save the Ethiopian dictator.
    Takele

  2. Ezana on

    This land grabing should remind us all ´bout how we lost Djibuti for the 99 years leasing, or when the woyane clique era ends, we have to confront with many nations and their legal demands, including compensation or even military confrontation inorder to get our land back!!!!The ethiopian population is growing fast and so tyhe shortage of food in the country…Why can´t we make this issue a priority???? Is there any thing worse than loosing your land? WHY THEY DON`T SELL THEIR TIGRAY AS THEY USED TO TRY BEFORE????Yeah, may be no one need to buy a land of stones?? Hellow ethiopians!!!!we are loosing our country bit by bit!!!!

  3. Shaebia on

    There you go…… The good of the puddingis in the tasting….
    Some spin masters here have been telling us how Egypt is conspiring with Eritrea against Ethiopia. That was a smoke screen of all time. TheEgyptian, Obasanjo and the Gulleh land grab in Ethiopia has most definetely bought favour for the weyane, to say the least. These investers know which side their breads are buttered….. They are not expected to shoot themselves in the foot.
    There is one massive massive thing missing in this wikileak document though…… Where are all the coffee farms that and the juiciest lands grabbed since decades ago by theUS investers including amongst them, the STARBUCK subsidiary, who has atleast 11,000 outlets in US alone and creating not less than a quarter of a million US tax paying employees. A single US investment out the many is the drive of the US economy, yet nobody can see it nor hear about it……The US also knows which side their breads are buttered. You guys are led to focus on the Egypt, Gulleh & Obasanjo while the big one is being syphoned out in broad day light.
    There is absolutely nothing the blameless poor & dispossessed ethiopian can do about this…… Deapite being in their faces, not even the political elites who pretend knows it all can see or hear about it.
    Mathew 13:13…..”That is why I use this parable, ……
    FOR THEY LOOK BUT THEY DON’T REALLY SEE
    THEY HEAR, BUT THEY DON’T REALLY LISTEN OR UNDERSTAND
    Ethiopian land has turned into a free for all but its own people.
    There is one thing that greed don’t understand….. “HISTORY”
    At the biginning of the 20th century, following their shameful 1880’s Berlin manifesto’s “scramble for Africa” agreement, in their drive to grab more and more land, their greed got the better of them that they got on each others throat causing them to massacre each other in the WW1 where millions perished. But prior to the WW1, a significant war was the precurssor to the WW1…… the BOAR WAR…… fought in the 1901 between the Dutch settlers( farmers) against the British who wants a piece of the gold and Diamond discovered in south Africa. The boars fought the first gorilla war and managed to defeat the Brits at the beginning but the Brits reorganised under the brutal Genetal Kitchner and his Derbush(Mahadist) foot soldier to finally defeat the Boar fighters where lots of war crimes are reported. No war crimes on the black south Africans by both parties were reported. German sympathized with the boars for their own interest but were handicapped as the German king was married to the first child of Queen Victoria at the time….. But Victoria died in 1901…. besides German were so unhappy that they grabbed only a few land in the scramble as compared to France & Britain who managed to grab a massive chunk of Africa a-piece. That was a sour taste for Germany who had the meeting for the very scramble born in its capital, Berlin but got only a barren land as it thought at the time. The Brits & French might have gained lots of land but they almost lost their own capital cities when German went on the rampage occupying France and bombing England and threatening to occupy it that ensued to millions dead. General kitchner was reported to have died in an unknown circumstances in that WW1 in 1915.
    Similarly now, while the Egyptian are scrambling for a land grab in Ethiopia, the rug is being pulled right from underneath its feet in Cairo….. Where as Obasanjo is sitting on a Lagos timebomb that would errupt one day. Gulleh is insignificant as he is under the French protectorate running a family business in Djibouti…….
    But to those who want to pull a wool on our face saying Egypt this Eritrea that….. I say, please spare us from all your smoke screens.
    You can only be a true Ethiopian if you stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor & dispossessed people of Ethiopia….. for they are blameless & forgotten……U know it sounds easier claiming to stand by the poor than actually standing by them in practice. It’s like that parable of Jesus …… It’s easier for a camel to go thru a needle’s eye than for a rich man to go to heaven……..Mark 10:25….
    But God as he promissed won’t forget the blameless poor.

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