Does African investment only help the investors?

Does African investment only help the investors?

Money is pouring into Africa, but where is it landing? Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/5094797180/lightbox/"> World Bank (Flickr)</a>
Money is pouring into Africa, but where is it landing? Photo: World Bank (Flickr)

Some African communities are realizing the recent surge in international investment isn't all good news.

Sierra Leone, Ghana, Ethiopia and Niger: Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world and foreign financiers are rushing in to turn a profit. In a six-part investigation, Geoffrey York of the Globe and Mail explores just how these international investments are changing Africa’s socioeconomic landscapes.

In particular, he looks at how markets are affecting the structure of individual communities—for instance: what does this surge of international interest mean for, say, rural villages in Liberia or the DRC? Well, as York points out: it depends on who you ask.

For one village, a Belgian-owned mine or an Indian-run palm-oil plantation might mean secure, well-paying jobs; infrastructure and opportunity. Yet to another they could translate to land seizures and the loss of entire livelihoods.

The two contrasting realities surrounding international business and investment in Africa provided by York highlights not only the growing pains of rapidly developing African nations but it also tells the story of cultural geographies pockmarked by colonial-style extractive economies and histories of exploitation. It’s not too difficult to imagine why some communities throughout the continent perceive this trend in international investment as a more contemporary scramble for Africa.

York's question is not whether all international investment is bad for African countries—his examples make clear that investments help some people while hurting others—but instead: Can its inevitable bad effects be minimized without stopping Africa's rapid growth?

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