Beyond the BRICS' Rhetoric: An Inquiry on South-South Land grabbing

18 November 2014
Report

BRICS countries’ investors play an increasingly crucial role in land investments. Just as the global trend of increased interest and investment in land has led to a surge of land grabbing, BRICS investments have proved no different.

The BRICS countries’ relationships with other countries in the South are often said to be distinguishable from those of traditional Northern donors. In particular, it is often claimed that South-South development cooperation does not attach policy conditionalities, provides assistance based on a win-win paradigm, and places emphasis on how to ensure economic sustainability of the receiving country. A closer look at the issue of investing in land abroad, and the use of investment agreements to secure those investments, suggests though that there is much less of a gulf between the practices of governments in North and South than we might like to think.

Data shows that BRICS countries’ investors (public, private, and mixed) play an increasingly crucial role in land investments (except Russia, which remains at the margin of the rush probably due to the amount of available land). Just as the global trend of increased interest and investment in land has led to a surge of land grabbing, BRICS investments have proved no different. There are zones of interest for each country, with a predilection toward neighboring countries (especially in the case of Brazil, South Africa and China) and certain areas of the African continent depending on geographical proximity or linguistic ties.

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This article is a condensed version of a chapter that appears in “Shifting Power: Critical perspectives on emerging economies,” published by the Transnational Institute (August 2014).
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Tomaso Ferrando is a Ph.D. candidate in law, and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School.

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