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Germany and the land deals in Africa: the data perspective.


Germany is the main player in 8 of the 356 transnational contracts signed between governments and investors for the lease of land in Africa, for a total of about 171,000 hectares. This is what arises from a query made by Land Matrix, the database collecting all land deals worldwide (Land Matrix, 5 Nov 2013). A rather low percentage, if compared to the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and Saudi Arabia, which lead the ranking of investing countries with 9.6 million hectares under their control in the African continent. However, after the case of Kaweri, the coffee plantation in Uganda which was part of the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe of Hamburg, Germany has also been the object of harsh criticism. These accusations towards Germany, and in particular towards the former Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel, are the same that have been directed towards others accused of “land grabbing”, the acquisition of vast quantities of land in developing countries, while violating the human rights of local communities.

Main German land deals in Africa

According to the contracts recorded by the Land Matrix database, as of writing, the 8 land deals in Africa driven by German investments amount to a total of 171,000 hectares. Five projects prove to have begun production, while three turn out to be in their start-up phase. The 2500 hectares leased by Uganda to the Kaffee Gruppe, 1802 of which prove to be operational, appear to be among the projects that are already under way. Four of the eight investments appear to be connected to the biofuel business through the cultivation of jatropha, a plant from which oil for biodiesel production is extracted – these include the largest investment, 120,000 hectares in Zambia co-assigned to German company Mann Ferrostalla and to Deulco, a South African company specialized in renewable energies. The latter is the only project to also be listed as “Industry”, most probably referring to the jatropha oil transformation plants. The other four investments consist of plantations for food purposes: rice, cereal, peas, grain and coffee.


Explore the global debate on the “land rush”

For more on large-scale land acquisitions, an interactive map has been developed collecting stories participating in the debate on the land rush in Africa. The map displays all players involved in the discussion, showing documents from the academic community, reports from the international civil society, journalistic investigations and participations of companies and institutions. Furthermore, the map allows the submission of new articles by filling in a crowdsourcing form.

Explore the map by clicking on the markers and join the discussion by submitting articles you consider relevant to the argument of land leases in the African continent, indicating the link, the location and the source.


Jacopo Ottaviani is a journalist and developer specialized in data-driven journalism. He contributes to Italian and International media, including The Guardian and Al Jazeera International. Follow him on Twitter: @jackottaviani
This post for ZEIT ONLINE is part of the Innovation in Development Reportingprogramme operated by the European Journalism Centre (EJC). The project development also saw the contribution of Andrea Fama, Cecilia Anesi and Isacco Chiaf.