UAE and Sudan: An Odd Land Deal

Via The Economist, an interesting report on a recent discreet deal under which some 16,800 square kilometres (6,180 square miles) of Sudanese wilderness will become the estate of a company from Abu Dhabi.  As the article notes:

The leasing agreement was signed by a company called Al Ain National Wildlife after an earlier failed attempt by another company in the UAE to buy exclusive access to 6,500 square kilometres of the Serengeti plains in northern Tanzania. If well run, large slices of land bought up or leased by rich patrons may help preserve the area for future generations of locals. But some say the deal has been struck without the involvement of ordinary locals and say that aircraft registered in the UAE are already flying equipment to a camp in the Maruwa Hills to start building a resort.

Under the agreement, a copy of which was obtained by The Economist, Al Ain promises to build top-class hotels as well as the semi-permanent tented camps favoured by most up-market safari companies. Some conservationists wonder if the visitors may be looking for big-game trophies, despite a general ban on hunting in the south.

Other southern Sudanese discern strategic implications. They say the Emiratis, with their cargo aircraft, helicopters, road-building equipment, lorries and jeeps, may end up running an area of Sudan about as big as Denmark with little interference. They also wonder whether Al Ain and its contractors will employ Muslim security people from the north, who are generally distrusted by the Christian and animist southerners.

If Sudan’s north and south return to war, as may happen if the southerners try to secede in 2011 under a north-south agreement signed in 2005, sceptical southerners say that northerners might try to use the airstrip to bring in troops and weapons, though there is no suggestion that Al Ain would be party to such activities. As things stand, Al Ain is apparently already able to fly aircraft from the UAE in and out of South Sudan with no restriction or inspection.

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About This Blog And Its Author
Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at and frontier investment markets at