For countries scrambling for Africa’s farmland – Saudi Arabia, India and China, the real value is water. Saudi Arabia does not lack land for food production. What’s missing in the Kingdom is water. Indian companies are doing the same because aquifers across the sub-continent have been depleted by decades of unsustainable irrigation. Africa’s land grabs could be the biggest virtual water export in history.
The huge land deals in Africa involve large-scale, commercial agriculture, which will require large quantities of water and mineral fertilizers. Nearly all of the foreign land deals are located in Africa’s major river basins; the Congo, the Niger, and the Nile Collectively, three of the main countries in the Nile basin – Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan – have already leased about 8.5 million hectares. Uganda has leased a total of 868,000 hectares to investors from China, Egypt, Singapore and India.