In my world, a multi-billion dollar company, with assets matching that of the current global superpower, China, is looking to purchase the continent of Africa. My world is similar to the world we are living in right now, just in the future where everything is now automated. How would someone go about buying a continent, what would be the rules or government reactions to such a request?
Firstly you'd need a multi-trillion dollar company.
Secondly 1.2 billion Africans is a lot of people to convince. You'd be better off buying Australia if you need a big continent (25 million people), New Zealand (5 million) or a Pacific Island if you just need a country. Principality of Andorra if you can get away with a micro-state. Antarctica is a possibility with global warming once the shooting starts over its natural resources and the unsustainability of the Antarctic Treaty becomes obvious (it has only 12 signatories).
Thirdly, look at the United States of America. The population believes they live in a democracy but arguably live in an oligarchy where lobbyists, vested interests and tribal affiliations influence or control executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. Australia has fallen into a similar trap where the population demands safety and security and has traded away liberty and fairness. The big 4 banks in Australia are regulated by the government and the bureaucracy but are too big to fail and therefore are protected from on high. As a result our major cities are unaffordable to the average worker. Wall street is the same in capturing US legislature and executive.
On to how to buy Africa? The quicker way is to just bribe the rulers in each nation-state and equip them with sufficient firepower to suppress dissent. This is how European and American Oil companies ruled the middle east until Iran nationalised their oil in 1951.
It is possible with a long term plan, in terms of decades or generations like the Chinese and Japanese do.
Destabilise every country by actively supporting competing claims to power and exploiting ethnic, tribal and family differences. Make sure your military-industrial complex divisions provide weapons and materiel to all sides in a battle through apparently competing subsidiaries.
Ensure regular famine and war outbreaks.
Restrict access to education for the broader population except for elites.
Pick one small, insignificant country for the base of operations, preferably one without competing tribal claims and history. Provide opportunities for the local elites to advance their quality of life. Rotate all key managers of your conglomerate through that country as part of the corporate training. Locate regional head office in capital of that country. Consider locating global HQ there.
Eventually offer education and business opportunities to neighbouring elites so that the capital becomes a centre of regional excellence. Recruit these elites into your global conglomerate. Your company will change over time until the executive ranks and the country's elite ranks become homogeneous.
As your country become the centre of civilisation and progress, expand the circle of peace, again with appointees, politicians and warlords aligned with your values and agenda.
To be clear the company must be generating significant value within the country and then within the continent. Mining, infrastructure, technological research and development, education & training, aerospace, materials science.
End game: either you end up "winning" by being in power in every major economic centre or you engineer a crises where the populace demands the company save them.
The "problem" with your scenario is that you're asking for states and governments to abolish themselves. They will not like it.
Say you have a notional country with 10 citizens. Each owns a farm with one square kilometre. Now a foreigner, the 11th guy, comes along and buys all ten farms. What happens? The country still has 10 citizens. They elect the legislature and the government. Directly or indirectly, they appoint the courts. One foreign investor may or may not be a legal resident, he is not even close to a majority of the citizens' vote.
If the investor tells all his tenants to leave because he wants to build a golf course, they'd quickly pass a "traditional farms protection act" to make this illegal. They might also abolish income tax and replace it with a land tax, and take the farms back if the owner doesn't pay taxes ...
If the investor is lucky, there are international treaties to protect the investment against such tricks, and the country in question has signed up to those treaties. It would be painful for the country to leave or break those treaties, but they can do it.
So things might look slightly different if the investor just buys four of the farms, and convinces the six other owners that they don't want their country to become isolated from international trade.
Purchases under the Law of the Jungle
At this level of the power politics game, there aren't any laws beyond the laws of the jungle. You get exactly what you can negotiate for or take by diplomatic or physical force. International diplomacy is a set of agreements between players big enough to bloody each other's noses if someone resorts to violence to get their way. If you don't have a military or some other power, you don't have stakes at the table and other countries will just ignore you, or worse outright dominate you. Also, at this level, you're not dealing with transfer of title, it's transfer of sovereignty. The rules for transfer of sovereignty are different than simple transfer of title.
A couple questions:
- Do you need to actually buy the continent or do you just care about controlling it?
- You are unlikely to be able to meet everyone's asking price for their land and assets, especially once it's known that you are trying to buy the whole continent. People will be able to make themselves fabulously wealthy but increasing their ask price by 1000x (which you'll pay if you want to get the whole continent).
- If you only care about control then you won't have to pay people for their assets at all. You just have to get control of the governments.
There are properties on a modern, inhabited continent that simply are not for sale. No government will ever sell off their military bases (outside some truly bizarre circumstances) without removing their sovereignty first.
Things you'll need first
To achieve this purpose you'll need a couple things (a billion dollar company probably won't be nearly enough, a multi-trillion dollar company would be a better start) besides more money than the deity of your choice.
- A military or some kind of police force to ensure you keep your new holdings. As the line goes "You have to defend what you want to maintain."
- A diplomatic corp to handle your newly complicated relationships with other nations.
- An internal ministry to manage the relationship between you and all the people who now live on your land.
- An economic ministry to handle your newly acquired
Hey! Check that out! You're a new nation! Good luck!