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The new scramble for Africa (part 2)

In a way starkly reminiscent of colonialism, multinational corporations are supporting the construction of new roads and railways that will facilitate the extraction of African resources.

World Development Movement (WDM) has produced a new series of infographics depicting the parallels between European colonialism and the encroachment of multinational corporations on the African continent. In this series of three weekly articles, WDM and This Is Africa explore the dynamics behind this modern-day game of thrones.

View the second interactive infographic.

See the first article and infographic here.

The original Scramble for Africa: extraction routes
In Europe, the process of colonialism was cleverly presented as benevolent. Charitable-sounding groups like the International Africa Association were created to provide a front for the plundering of African resources. And developments like the railway and steamship, brought to African shores using capital from Europe’s emerging financial centres, were portrayed as generous sharing of new technology whilst facilitating access to cheap raw materials to feed the industrial revolution.


Maps showing the railways built by the colonisers to link the interior of the African continent to ports expose the process of extraction that these developments facilitated. A handful of examples are depicted in the infographic released this week. For example, a railway built under British control was used to transport cotton from large plantations in central Sudan to Port Sudan, from where it could be exported to Europe and used to make clothing and household goods. On the other side of the continent, resources including coffee, copper and coal were transported from parts of Zambia and the Congo basin ports in Angola by means of another railway – the shortest way of extracting such mineral wealth to Europe.

Infographic: the new Scramble for Africa - Extraction. View the interactive version on the WDM website.
Infographic: the new Scramble for Africa – Extraction. View the interactive version on the WDM website.

The new Scramble for Africa: “Agricultural growth corridors”
Today, a not-dissimilar process is underway. A series of ‘agricultural growth corridors’, first muted in 2008 by international fertiliser giant Yara (as featured in last week’s infographic), are now being established. These projects, currently most developed in Mozambique and Tanzania, are intended to enable the production and transport of agricultural products to major ports, from which they can be exported.

One of the projects, the Beira corridor, actually builds on existing colonial railway routes. Linking the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to the port of Beira in Mozambique, it has attracted support from European donors including the UK, the Netherlands and Norway, and multinational companies such as Sun Biofuels (notorious for its failed biofuel project in Tanzania) and Rio Tinto. It’s not surprising they want to get in on the action – once complete, the corridor will allow them to extract African coal and biofuel crops to supply to lucrative export markets. Fertiliser giant Yara is also a partner in the project, set to gain from new opportunities to import their fertilisers for sale on the continent. A new fertiliser terminal is due to open at Beira this year.

The planned corridors are justified on the basis that there are large areas of un- or under-utilised land that can be used for new large-scale agricultural production. But in fact the majority of the land in question is already being used for food production, mainly for local people. And those who are using it are fighting back.

In Mozambique, members of UNAC (União Nacional dos Camponeses de Moçambique, the National Union of Small-scale Farmers of Mozambique) have been vocal in opposition to the ProSavana corridor. In 2012 they published a statement condemning the initiative recently a national campaign against the project was launched. Small-scale farmers and development groups have also criticised the agricultural growth corridor project in southern Tanzania (SAGCOT).

Want to offer some solidarity? Check out the second infographic of the series now and share it to help expose the new scramble for Africa.

The third and final infographic in the series will be published in the week commencing 7th July.

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