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September 08, 2011

China's growing African agricultural footprint

China is currently paying particular attention to Africa’s arable land; according to Alex Pestana, investment strategist at Sanlam Investment Management (SIM), South Africa.

Rapid economic growth had extracted a serious environmental bill, with “tens of milions” at risk of “desertification in China.”  The arable land opportunity in Africa was obvious, he said, as only 15 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s potential arable land was being used for agriculture.

Pestana reckoned there were 142 Chinese agricultural investment projects scattered over sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2009. And, that the Chinese Food and Agricultural Organisation had already set up a $30-million trust for investing in Africa.

He said the Chinese Development Bank had granted loans worth millions of dollars to agricultural processing firms in East Africa, and the Chinese had given $1bn in agricultural loans to Angola, as well as pledging $800mn to Mozambique. China had also invested in arable land in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.

He argued that China’s increased presence in Africa would have a major influence on food prices and land prices, meaning African agri-businesses would enjoy significant benefits from China.

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