Maybe this is getting so little media attention because it’s in Norway.
At any rate, it’s worth noting because:
Last week, at the opening of the G8 conference hosted by the United States, President Barack Obama announced a $3-billion, largely private sector plan aimed at fighting hunger in Africa.
Some celebrated it as a welcome initiative by the world’s wealthiest nations — a big win in the effort to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa and a move that will “lift 50 million people out of poverty.” Obama said he regarded the public-private partnership, dubbed the National Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, as a “moral imperative.”
Others saw it more as a punt, an attempt to divert attention from the failure of the G8 nations to live up to earlier commitments of food aid and to deflect responsibility over to the private sector — to agri-business firms which already have commercial reasons to invest in Africa, some of which may do little to alleviate the plight of poor farmers.
Now we learn that the top player on Obama’s private sector plan to fight hunger in Africa is under criminal investigation over allegations of corruption – bribes paid to foreign officials.
According to the Obama Administration, specifically the U.S. Agency for International Development, as much as $2 billion of their $3 billion initiative is based on a plan by a Norwegian firm, Yara International, to build a fertilizer plant in Africa (location unspecified).
Little noticed so far are a few news reports of the Norwegian government’s investigation of Yara for criminal corruption — bribes paid to gain foreign contracts. The Wall Street Journal reported today that two Yara executives have stepped down (well, over really … since they kept their jobs) due to the probe. This, the WSJ notes, is the third corruption investigation of Yara and its work overseas.
Oxfam, which has worked to fight both hunger and corruption in Africa, noted that the Sahel region is heading right now into a food crisis and that the international community has not responded fully to this crisis.
A number of international aid advocacy organizations have criticized the Obama private-sector plan as both inadequate and irresponsible given the failure of governments to follow through on pledged aid. The fact that two-thirds of the money for Obama’s plan to fight hunger in Africa is coming from a corporation with “integrity issues” may prompt further scrutiny and critiques.