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New Donors, New Investments: New Development?

Report of the eight Knowledge for Development seminar

On January 27, 2012, the International Development Studies of Utrecht University organised its eight knowledge for development seminar. The seminar aimed to critically assess the meaning of development in the context of contemporary transformations such as the increased involvement of giants like India and China in development cooperation and the increased role of southern countries in international investment flows. Some key questions were: How do these new relations influence the notion of development? What type of ‘development’ are they providing? What are the geopolitical implications of the new South-South and South-North relations? And: What do these new realities imply for development after the Millennium Development Goals? This reports gives a summary of the presentations and discussions during the day.

A snapshot of the keynotes is given below. Read the complete summarised presentations in the attached report.

Keynote: Prof. Dr. Aderanti Adepoju (Human Resource Development Centre, Lagos) The scramble for Africa’s resources and new partnerships for development

In addition to on-going globalisation and increased mobility of labour, Prof Adepoju notes several relatively new developments that influence the future of Africa. First, there is the emergence of the multipolar world. The countries of the G7, which are experiencing domestic problems due to the financial crisis, are losing their position as world leaders. At the same time the economies of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and CIVETS (Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and Turkey) are on the rise. These are the countries that are going to dominate the world in the coming years. In relation to this, Adepoju also notes the emergence of a demographic divide: Of the eight countries with more than 150 million inhabitants in 2011, only one (the USA) is a non-southern country.

Keynote: Prof. dr. Stephen Ellis (African Studies Centre, Leiden) Hopes, Utopias and Africa's Development

If you would believe the international press, Africa changed from a hopeless continent into the ‘last emerging market’ within a decade. Indeed, Africa has become of increasing strategic interest to the international business community, with a substantial growth of the middle class in many of its countries, a rapidly increasing population and growth rates of around five per cent.

Dr. Yongjun Zhao, (University of Groningen) China’s reform and its role in international development

China’s role as a donor in Africa is not new – back in the 1960s, for example, China was already providing aid to Africa, which was largely driven by political ambitions, such as a more important role in the UN. The current magnitude of Chinese aid in Africa, however, is unprecedented. Importantly, there are no strings attached for the receiving states. The West is currently trying to persuade China to align its activities with OECD practices and, slowly but surely, the Chinese are becoming more open to this dialogue.

Maru Shete (Africa Studies Centre, Leiden) Large-scale land acquisition in Ethiopia

According to the Ethiopian government, development means modernisation of the economy, especially in the agricultural sector. In its most recent five-year plan the government emphasizes the importance of large-scale commercial agriculture to establish an agricultural transformation. Therefore the government tries to attract foreign companies to invest in large-scale agriculture, for example through attractive land lease rates and tax holidays (temporary tax reductions). Emphasis is on production of export crops such as cotton, tea and rubber on so-called underutilized lands. According to the government, Ethiopia has 74 million ha of land suitable for farming, of which only 18 million ha (24%) are cultivated. Shete, however, points out that forest areas are currently being cleared, as they are seen as unused lands, while these provide crucial ecosystem services. He also notes that pasturelands are targeted for large-scale agricultural investments based on the narrative that they are ‘under-utilized’.

The meeting was organized by Joris Schapendonk and Annelies Zoomers (IDS, Utrecht University) in collaboration with SID, HIVOS, FNV Mondiaal, IOB (Antwerp University) and LANDac, the IS Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development ( The report was made by Koen Kusters, WiW – Global Research and Reporting.

Read the complete summarised presentations in the attached report.

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