If you’re curious about the role of big business in Africa’s food future, keep an ear on tomorrow's all-day meeting of government and business leaders in Washington, featuring speeches by President Barack Obama and top executives from DuPont, Monsanto and other agribusiness giants. Organizers promise news of "significant new business commitments for African agriculture.”
You can stream the proceedings here.
The role of multinational corporations is hotly debated in international development and food justice circles. Some say Africa needs big businesses to boost production and increase efficiency. Others say multinationals undermine small farmers and threaten local food systems and accuse the U.S. government of helping that happen.
One thing is certain: Big business sees big profits in the growing demand for food over the coming decades. And African governments are rolling out the welcome mat, as our recent report from Ethiopia showed.
The meeting’s sponsor list might provide a hint of what's coming. The “flagship sponsor” is DuPont, the world’s third-largest chemical company and a leading producer of seeds and pesticides. Other sponsors are Abbott (maker of infant formula and rehydration fluids, among many other things), Elanco (a division of Eli Lilly that specializes in industrial livestock products), Land O’Lakes, Monsanto (the world's largest producer of conventional and genetically modified seeds) and Walmart (the world's biggest retailer).
In addition to Obama, the list of speakers includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; presidents or prime ministers of Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania; heads of national and international development organizations; and executives from Monsanto, Abbott, DuPont, Swiss agrochemical producer Syngenta and several other global agribiz companies. The head of the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi also will speak.