A Growing Opportunity – Measuring Investments in African Agriculture


Sub-Saharan African agriculture could, and should, be thriving. According to the World Bank, the region has the right conditions to feed itself: enough fertile farmland, enough water and enough favourable climates. According to the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), the Africa Progress Panel and others, Africa has the potential not only to feed itself, but also to become a major food supplier for the rest of the world.

Unlocking Africa’s agriculture potential would also unlock its development. Farming is Africa’s predominant livelihood: more than twothirds of Africans depend on agriculture for their incomes. Investing in agriculture is one
of the best ways to reduce poverty in Africa. According to World Bank analysis, growth in the agriculture sector is 2.5 times as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

Yet Africa is far from realizing this potential. For too long, Africa’s agriculture sector was neglected. African governments failed over many decades to invest adequately in the agriculture sector and to create a policy and regulatory environment in which smallholder farmers could flourish. Compared to a sharp rise in domestic spending in Asia, public spending on agriculture in Africa stayed stagnant and low throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile, donor assistance to agriculture was slashed 72% between 1988 and 2003.

As a result, Africa’s cereal crop yields today are nearly as low as they were several decades ago, and just a fraction of those in Latin America and South Asia. Today, Africa is a net food buyer, looking outside the continent to feed its growing and urbanising population. Facing poor infrastructure, expensive fertilizer, poor access to extension and financial services, unreliable and unpredictable markets, inadequate utilisation of technology and improved seeds, and limited land security, Africa’s smallholder farmers have been left unable to produce enough food to feed their families, nor to sell surplus to markets to generate income.

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A Growing Opportunity – Measuring Investments in African Agriculture – by ONE