Land acquisitions by foreign-owned companies and possible human rights implications

Authors Catherine Plit, Herbert Kawadza

ISSN: 2521-2575
Affiliations: Attorney at Schindlers Attorneys, Johannesburg; Senior Lecturer in the School of Law of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Source: Journal of Corporate and Commercial Law & Practice, The, Volume 2 Issue 1, 2016, p. 17 – 39


Large multinational companies and foreign governments have shown considerable interest in foreign arable land, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. This growing development has been lauded by the host countries as a necessary tool aimed at aiding economic development. Despite such justifications, there is also evidence showing that such land acquisitions are associated with human rights violations. This article seeks to explore and examine this recent global trend. It investigates the underlying reasons for this increased agricultural interest, and seeks to identify and explain the detrimental consequences of these land deals for the human rights of vulnerable communities living within the host states. The international community has recognised the existence of such adversarial consequences and, as a result, the last few years have seen a flurry of various attempts aimed at governing the issue in one way or another. Given the multiplicity of the global responses, the governance of land grabbing becomes a complex system of differing views and ideologies. This article seeks to examine the most prominent regulatory attempts, and despite criticism regarding their prominent nature, this article argues that the progress thus far is commendable, displaying a collaborative success in demanding a strong human-rights-based approach to the issue.