Why the Daewoo-Madagascar Deal Would Have Struggled Anyway

women in Madagascar, originally uploaded by Zé Eduardo….

A while ago I wrote about the issue of food security and the ethical implications that have arisen in relation to it, using the Madagascar-South Korea Daewoo deal as an example. The now failed agreement will serve as a text book case study for large conglomerates and nations seeking similar partnerships in the future, especially as they relate to issues of conflict-resolution.

(For background details on the issue, please click here.)

Over the weekend we learned that the tenant farming deal is now null. Due to political unrest in Madagascar, the island has brought into power a new leader who has scrapped the deal with Daewoo, much to the pleasure of the country’s citizens.

Says the BBC:

Correspondents say Malagasy people have deep ties to their land and some had condemned the deal as “neo-colonialism”.

While there is no denying that such a deal had the potential to bring about positive change for the impoverished nation, even if the agreement had gone through to implementation, Daewoo and Madagascar’s government would have faced an uphill battle from the start.

If the people such changes are meant to benefit aren’t on board with the plan, conflicts are sure to arise. Judging by the reports I have read, there was little support among the domestic population for this agreement.

This isn’t to say that over time, the domestic population would not have gradually accepted the agreement and would have come on board with the plan, especially if they were seeing immediate positive change. Of course, that is such a big “if” when they are resisting the proposal from the get-go.

A great book that deals with issues of development, the environment and indigenous peoples (although in the context of Southeast Asia) is The Politics of Environment in Southeast Asia: Resources and Resistance, edited by Philip Hirsch and Carol Warren.

While the tone of the book did tend to have me on the offensive (as I am a strong believer in development and the good it can bring impoverished populations), I did take away one important thing and that was the realization that there is a wrong way and a right way in terms of dealing with the web of relationships involved with international development, relationships that include the physical development itself, the environment, the people who will benefit and the people who will not (in many cases indigenous communities whose land and resources are affected by the changes).

While it’s not my place to point a finger at any one party in relation to the failed Daewoo-Madagascar deal, I will say that the approach taken in introducing the plan to the domestic population seemed to lack citizen participation in the decision-making process. (At least based on the mainstream media reports I have been reading). And while citizen participation may not have necessarily saved the deal, it could have perhaps lessened the feelings of antagonization that developed further down the road.

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One Comment on “Why the Daewoo-Madagascar Deal Would Have Struggled Anyway”

  1. Jean-Louis Says:

    The demise of this deal is a good reflection of how dubious governance and transparency have led to the current troubles we are experiencing in Madagascar.

    I humbly submit that while some type of agricultural “deal” would certainly have benefited Madagascar and its peoples; this particular deal was doomed from the onset. Why?

    – Our government failed to take into account the population’s historical attachment to “their” land, ignoring the basic need to inform and concert.
    – It would have been far more effective and positively cautious to start with smaller surfaces, try three different companies simultaneously to foster competition and spread the risks, and foremost, to involve the concerned populations.

    I am personally convinced that Malagasies would have accepted a decent deal that responds to their immediate as well as future needs.

    Rather than going on and on, my main point is that this failed deal is a result of the “former” regime’s management style, which has had far more negative consequences than merely this land deal.

    Indeed, despite holding endless seminars and workshops, in the end, all important issues were dealt with a high degree of autocracy.

    This is a true lesson on the limits of the “management by fear” style, albeit a costly one…

    The net result is that not only have we taken backwards steps in terms of stability, but it will be hard to convince new investors to come to Madagascar, compounded with the dismal global situation.

    Of course, the hardest hit will as usual be the poor, that is, more than 90% of our population.

    Worse yet, there were signs and numerous interventions from knowledgeable persons who saw this coming like a freight train. They were largely ignored.

    On top of that, the “international community”, through it’s local representatives, kept publicly complimenting the regime, bolstering its perception that it was doing “quite well”, while denouncing the shortcomings and problems in private (receptions and such).

    In short, we all bear a responsibility for the failure, and should ALL work harder at redressing a dire situation.


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