The activity of land grabbing involves the acquisition or long-term lease of land by investors or foreign governments. The expansion of land grabs has triggered mounting policy and academic interest. Key drivers are globalisation, market liberalisation, and the impacts of food price and oil price increases especially since 2008. As a result, foreign governments are looking for stable sources of food security rather than depending on a volatile world market and commercial investors seek to reap benefits from an increase in food prices and demand in alternative fuels. This article addresses the weak state of data and understanding of the extent of land grabs in sub-Saharan Africa. It analyses the scale, geographic patterns and sectoral patterns of investment based upon a comprehensive database established for projects announced by mid-2011. The production of food crops accounts for the largest area of land allocations, the greatest number of projects relate to biofuels production. It is shown that despite the large investments planned, activity on the ground is limited. The recommendation is for strong government policies in the host countries to ensure large-scale foreign land investment contributes to overall economic development.
Key words: Land grabbing, foreign investment, sub-Saharan Africa, geographical patterns, sectoral patterns.
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