Call For Papers: Africa, Latin America and the “Asian Century”

OCP Policy Center and CIDOB invite the submission of papers that explore Reconfiguration of the Global South: Africa, Latin America and the “Asian Century”.

The conference will be held in Barcelona on 27-29 January 2016. For the full call for papers click here.

Proposals should be submitted electronically to and no later than 30 October 2015.

Papers can deal with a broad based variety of topics that explore the mutual relationship and the positioning of the two continents in the emerging “Asian Century”, such as:

– Rise of emerging markets countries and what it means for an increasingly multilateral international system.
– New geopolitical constructions of the Global South: Asian vs. Western interests in Africa and Latin America.
– Theoretical approaches to democratization, transition and development.
– Trade and investment relations.
– Domestic growth strategies and development cooperation, particularly in infrastructure financing, energy, environmental preservation, agriculture and food security.
– Port cities and their role in facilitating exchange between the two continents.
– Maritime security and hard security issues.
– Free trade areas and regional association agreements.
– Migrant communities and cultural relations.
– Sustainable management of cities.

Chinese Agro-Investments in Africa

Last month I was at a conference about Chinese agro investments in Africa at SAIS/ Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

Deborah Brautigam differentiated five types of such investments: 1) media myths and false reports; 2) former aid projects that have now been privatized; 3) construction contracts; 4) government projects that were launched more than a decade ago; and 5) real, current projects.

There are only a few current projects in the category 5) and they target food production for the domestic African market, not for export to China, which would not make commercial sense for logistical reasons.

Like in the case of the Gulf countries there is a certain disconnect with media reports and their inflated numbers about land grabs.

That having said China has recently shown strong interest in food related investments, but they have focused on the trading and food processing sectors with a view of improving food safety and catering to the increasingly diverse diets of the Chinese population.

Among such investments have been Tnuva, the Israeli cheese and consumer foods supplier, US pork producer Smithfield Foods, the UK breakfast brand Weetabix and Australian winemaker Hollick. Chinese grain trader COFCO has recently spent $1.5bn on a stake in a sugar, soyabean and wheat joint venture with Hing Kong based Noble Group.

It seems that China prepares to compete with the Cargills and Nestlés of this world rather than directly gobbling up farmland in the upstream sector. There are some large food processing companies in the Gulf that operate internationally like Kuwait based Americana. Gulf countries have also shown a similar, if more subdued interest in trading companies as I describe in Oil for Food, but compared with China they have arguably less capacities to realize such strategies.

Saudi Milk Production: Expansion and Feedstock Worries

Saudi dairy giant Almarai, which has farms with 135,000 cows is concerned about rising feed prices, especially corn and soybeans.

It plans further expansion, even though the Saudi dairy industry has been attacked by a motion of the Majlis al-Shoura for its high water needs in the past.

This could lead to an increased interest in outsourcing water intensive production of green fodder like alfalfa. Almarai already acquired an Argentinian farm earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia imports more soft wheat, mills need to adjust

Saudi Arabia increasingly imports soft wheat, which is needed for biscuits and other items. The Saudi milling industry is manly laid out for hard wheat and will need to adjust.

In 2011 the main wheat exporters to Saudi Arabia  was the European Union with a 36 percent share, mostly from Germany. It was followed by Canada (26 percent), the United States (14 percent) and Australia (12 percent).

The relatively large share of the EU and the US is remarkable. before 2008 when Saudi Arabia started to import meaningful quantities of wheat, they were under represented as main GCC suppliers and Canada and Australia dominated. Until 2005 India was also an important supplier, before its growing domestic needs impeded exports.