Scientific article
Open access

An extraversion affair: African states and the subnational locations of large-scale land acquisitions

ContributorsRichetta, Cécileorcid
Published inTerritory, politics, governance, p. 1-22
Publication date2022-08-26
First online date2022-08-26

Since the 2008 financial crisis, international investments in farmland have attracted considerable academic attention, yet surprisingly little is still known about their subnational determinants. To uncover why foreign land deals are situated in a particular territory, I incorporate this empirical puzzle with arguments about African state dynamics in processes of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs). This article argues that African authorities use LSLAs as strategies of extraversion: ruling elites sell or lease large parcels of land in areas with weak state infrastructural capacity. By doing so, they assert their formal authority by granting formal land titles, while concurrently outsourcing their responsibility for public good provision to foreign investors. I empirically test my argument using recently improved satellite imagery and the subnational locations of 468 land deals in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2008 and 2018. Innovative spatio-temporal models are estimated, allowing for insightful contributions to current research on farmland investments, African statehood and research methods. Results confirm my theoretical expectations: night-time light emission, as a measure of subnational infrastructural capacity, is negatively associated with new LSLAs. In other words, LSLAs are located in areas with poor infrastructural capacity, so that African states can benefit from them to maintain themselves.

  • large-scale land acquisition
  • state capacity
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • extraversion
  • foreign capital
  • rural development
  • satellite imagery
  • spatio-temporal model
Citation (ISO format)
RICHETTA, Cécile. An extraversion affair: African states and the subnational locations of large-scale land acquisitions. In: Territory, politics, governance, 2022, p. 1–22. doi: 10.1080/21622671.2022.2108492
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal2162-2671

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