Biofuel and aid: sharp fronts over land as plantations expand in Africa

The Swedish biofuel company SEKAB is only one of many foreign firms looking to join in on Africa’s biofuel klondike. What made the SEKAB affair special was the company’s favoured status in Sweden, its emphasis on social responsibility and environmental sustainability in its Africa projects, and its goal of financing biofuel operations in Tanzania and Mozambique with aid funds.

Development Today’s point of departure for covering the SEKAB affair was a letter written by a group of Tanzanian academics to the Dar es Salaam newspaper This Day in early 2009, in which they accused SEKAB, Sida and the Swedish consultancy firm Orgut of promoting sugar plantations that overlooked social and ecological problems while benefiting a foreign firm. When we dug deeper we learned that SEKAB had tampered with the conclusions of an environmental impact study carried out by Orgut, and submitted it to Tanzanian authorities without the consultant’s knowledge. On this false basis, SEKAB received approval for the project.

Development Today also revealed that SEKAB was seeking a guarantee from Sida for its first biofuel project in Tanzania, and planned to seek millions of aid dollars more in equity financing from Development Finance Institutions to cover other projects in both Tanzania and Mozambique. Sida eventually say “no” to SEKAB’s request. Here is an overview of articles:

• Sida spells out ‘high’ risks of SEKAB’s African biofuel plan (Read)
• Sida says ‘no’ to SEKAB (Read)
• SEKAB to sell Africa biofuel projects to former CEO Per Carstedt (Read)
• Editorial: SEKAB flirts with Sida (Read)
• SEKAB biofuel project in Tanzania tests new Sida guarantee facility (Read)
• Green light for Bagamoyo, SEKAB defends environment study (Read)
• SEKAB eyes massive aid-funded equity for 20 biofuel projects in Africa (Read)
• Tanzania suspends biofuel projects, pending new rules (Read)
• SEKAB ‘substantially altered’ biofuel study, kept Orgut’s name (Read)
• SEKAB: needs new investors, approached Sida for support (Read)
• Tanzanian study calls for biofuel moratorium (Read)
• SEKAB, Sida and Orgut attacked as ‘neo-colonialists’ (Read)
• Biofuel and aid: Sharp fronts over land and food as plantations expand (Read)

Subscribe to Development Today.