In this paper, we consider how references to ‘development’ are deployed to convince communities to lease their land to agribusiness investors in Sierra Leone. We argue that promises of development made by companies resonate with the aspirations for development that communities already have. The already existing ‘imaginaries’ of development, actual conditions of economic hardship and the material relations of power bound up in who does the ‘asking’ for land mean that communities need little convincing to give their land. Imaginaries of development are effective not only because of the promises of development themselves, but also because of how these imaginaries function through the role of coloniality – and ‘whiteness’ in particular. Analyses that focus only on the coercive power of elites in making land deals miss the degree to which companies’ promises of development fit into already existing imaginaries of a more prosperous future.