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Will Africa Feed China?

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Will Africa Feed China?

Oxford UP,

15 mins. de lectura
10 ideas fundamentales
Audio y Texto

¿De qué se trata?

Does China plan to turn Africa into its national food source? China expert and scholar Deborah Brautigam went to both Africa and China to find out.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


More than 20% of the world’s population lives in China, which has only 9% of the world’s arable land and only 6% of its drinkable water. Africa has the world’s largest untapped expanses of land and water. China is economically active in Africa, and some onlookers think China plans to turn Africa into its national food source and condemn Africans to starvation. China expert Deborah Brautigam travelled to Africa and China to research the China-Africa agricultural nexus. She presents her comprehensive, contrarian findings along with 28 pages of detailed source notes, and what she says may surprise you. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends her conclusions to global food, agricultural, trade and economic-development experts, as well as to scholars studying Africa and China and to those curious about the economics of globalization.


A One-Sided View

In an August 2012 article, the African Development Bank’s chief economist called China the world’s most notorious “land grabber,” particularly in Africa. Hundreds of other articles and news stories have delivered a similar message: China pursues an ambitious program of African agricultural investment and extensive farming development. The reported purpose of this activity is to feed China’s 1.3 billion people.

In 1995, environmental activist Lester Brown wrote Who Will Feed China? He claimed China’s growing demand for food would exhaust global export food supplies. Brown’s thesis that China would eventually deplete the global grain markets became influential. It led to a Washington Post article entitled “How China Could Starve the World.” Articles about China’s supposed efforts to turn Africa into China’s national food source focused on one or more of four mistaken ideas:

  1. Chinese firms seek vast tracts of African land for farming – Typical news stories say that China is buying up vast tracts in Africa. For example, the Inter Press Service wrote, “China…has extensive holdings in Africa, including pending or attempted...

About the Author

Professor Deborah Brautigam is director of the International Development Program at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.

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