News coverage to date has emphasised the role that countries including China and India have played in the acceleration of land acquisitions in Africa. Although Indian firms are active in countries like Ethiopia, the Oakland Institute’s investigation shows a major role of western firms, wealthy US and European individuals, and investment funds with ties to major banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

Investors include not only alternative investment firms like the London-based Emergent Asset Management that works to attract speculators, including universities such as Harvard (who has maintained secrecy on such potentially unpopular activities), Spelman, and Vanderbilt – with a primary motivation of economic access to agricultural land that will have high returns for the endowment.

Several Texas-based interests are associated with a major 600,000 ha South Sudan deal which involves Kinyeti Development, LLC, an Austin, Texas-based “global business development partnership and holding company,” managed by Howard Eugene Douglas, a former United States Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs.

A key player in the largest land deal in Tanzania is Iowa agribusiness entrepreneur and Republican Party stalwart, Bruce Rastetter, who concurrently serves as CEO of Pharos Ag, co-founder and Managing Director of AgriSol Energy, CEO of Summit Farms, and is an important donor to the Iowa State University. Rastetter was recently appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents by Terry Branstad, Iowa’s Governor, who received a substantial sum from Rastetter for his 2010 campaign. Iowa State University provides “private” research services that benefit Rastetter’s investments in Tanzania.

US companies are often below the radar, using subsidiaries registered in other countries, like Petrotech-ffn Agro Mali which is a subsidiary of Petrotech-ffn USA.

Many European companies are also involved, often with support provided by their governments and embassies in African countries. For instance, Swedish and German firms have strong interests in the production of biofuels in Tanzania. Major investors in Sierra Leone include Addax Bioenergy from Switzerland and Quifel International Holdings (QIH) from Portugal. Sierra Leone Agriculture (SLA) is actually a subsidiary of the UK based Crad-l (CAPARO Renewable Agriculture Developments Ltd.), associated with the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative.

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