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Investing in Africa – African agricultural development progress

Agricultural sector development in Africa is vital for achieving food security goals. Development of this sector also plays a significant economic role in maintaining sustainable economic growth across the continent. Where emerging economies in particular face food security risks, they are also presented with opportunities to leverage the potential of underdeveloped agricultural sectors. Progress has been made toward facilitating renewed agricultural development across the continent, but, as acknowledged by governments and multilateral organisations alike, much more is needed. The key to progress in agricultural development has traditionally focussed on the effective utilisation of technology and innovation to enhance efficiency. The importance of these factors is also true in the African context. However, the notion of harnessing untapped potential is another dominant theme. Translating that potential into tangible progress is a difficult challenge but one that can be overcome with multilateral and government support in the form of investment and encouragement for entrepreneurs and especially, the youth, to enter into the agricultural sector.

Progress toward African food security goals

The Africa Agriculture Science Week is held once every three years by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The last gathering was convened in Ghana in July 2013. Such gatherings are intended to bring together leaders from across the continent to review progress and lessons learned since the last meeting, and to determine the African regional agenda for the next three years.

The 2013 AASW’s official theme was ‘Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation’ – supported by sub-themes dedicated to:

  • Education and human resource development to enable Africa feed Africa
  • Innovations to improve productivity and resilience
  • Moving beyond competition to collaboration
  • Innovative financing and investment in agriculture

In particular, attention was paid to progress being made toward achieving the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) vision. CAADP is a programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and seeks to enhance continental agricultural development. This vision is described by the CAADP broadly as “… to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. To do this, African governments have agreed to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10 per cent of their national budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6 per cent.”

The CAADP has based its methodology for achieving this goal around four pillars:

  • Land and water management
  • Market access
  • Food supply and hunger
  • Agricultural research

To facilitate efforts made in each of these areas, the CAADP has rallied significant financial support under the auspices of NEPAD. Financial support has been secured from the various Regional Economic Communities, as well as the African Union (AU), together with a number of donors and African governments. The result is the CAADP Multi-donor Trust Fund, which is hosted at the World Bank. This Trust channels financial support to CAADP processes and investments.

Agricultural development of latent potential hinges on government support

Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) offered insight into the need for innovation and change in African agricultural development, in his opening speech at the 2013 Africa Agriculture Science Week. Nwanze noted that volatile food prices coupled with an ever growing population translate to significant pressure on the African agricultural sector. In order to meet the challenges of the future, it is not enough to merely attempt to reproduce the early successes of the African agricultural sector or to pursue a belated ‘Green Revolution’ for the continent. Rather, is it necessary to encourage participation in the agricultural sector through investment in and facilitation of smallholder farmers – providing access to better tools, supporting infrastructure, and creating greater opportunities for them to access markets and business opportunities. Nwanze advocates the need to encourage youth participation in agriculture, by making it a viable means of securing a livelihood.

The 2013 KPMG publication ‘Agriculture in Africa‘ examines precisely that issue of food security as a primary consideration for greater government support of the agricultural sector. A constantly repeated theme in this report is that ‘potential alone is not enough to feed a growing population.’ As noted in the report, the ‘Green Revolution’ which swept over the rest of the world between the 1950s and 1960s appears to have failed to have as much of an impact on African agriculture as in other developing countries across the globe. In order to make up for that missed development it is necessary to focus particularly on government facilitation of small-holder contributions to the agricultural sector. Moreover, investment, and assistance in knowledge transfers are key steps to boosting sector growth. Finally, in line with the sentiments expressed by Kanayo Nwanze, the KPMG report advocates taking measures to encourage youth participation in the agricultural sector by enhancing the accessibility and dynamic nature of the sector itself.

For more, see:

  1. Schubert, C., ‘Huge opportunities for African agriculture – but long road ahead’, CGIAR and CCAFS, 18 July 2013. Available at:
  2. ‘Agriculture in Africa’, KPMG Africa, 2013. Available at:
David Okwara
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