Enhancing United States Efforts to Develop Sustainable Agri-Food Systems in Africa
February 1, 2017 - Author: Prof. Thomas Jayne, Hon. Chance Kabaghe, and Prof. Isaac Minde
Enhancing U.S. Efforts to Develop Sustainable Agri-Food Systems in Africa. Prof. Thomas Jayne, Hon. Chance Kabaghe, and Prof. Isaac Minde, Farm Journal Foundation Policy Brief, Washington, DC. 2017. https://www.agweb.com/assets/1/6/enhancingusefforts_print.pdf
Africa is on the move. The incoming presidential administration and new 115th Congress will have before them an historic opportunity to extend America’s global leadership by promoting the economic transformations underway in Africa. Even with rapid urbanization and the arrival of Walmart, Africa’s development still greatly depends on the performance of its agri-food systems. Farming remains the primary source of employment for 65 percent of the region’s population. Poverty rates are declining but remain unacceptably high. Putting more money in the hands of 500 million Africans who rely on farming for their livelihoods will decisively influence the pace of growth in the rest of the economy. Virtually no country in the world has ever transformed its economy from an agrarian economy to a modern one with low poverty rates without sustained agricultural productivity growth.
Why should US citizens care? Investing in Africa’s economic growth is in the United States’ national interest. US exports of agricultural products to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $2.6 billion in 2013 and will grow rapidly if Africa continues to develop. By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa will contain 2.1 billion people—22 percent of the world’s population compared to 12 percent today. Rapidly rising population and incomes in Africa will increase the demand for a safe, affordable, and sustainable global food supply. US farmers and agribusiness can help themselves by helping Africa to
meet its rapidly growing food needs, by investing in the region’s agri-food systems, and by supporting a sustainable and efficient global food system.
But agricultural growth rarely happens spontaneously or solely through private sector initiative, as crucial as private investment is. Private investment responds to incentives. A sustainable approach to developing mutual US-Africa interests will require greater support for the development of African public institutions to nurture the next generation of African educators, farm extension workers, research scientists, entrepreneurs and workers in agri food systems, and policy makers.
An effective United State (US) approach will also recognizehow dramatically the African landscape has changed in the past few decades with respect to partnerships. Development models premised on 1980s conditions no longer fit 2016 realities. US development-oriented institutions will continue to play a critical role, but their effectiveness will depend on understanding and adapting to how Africans view their role in today’s world, in which there is considerably greater local expertise, awareness, and insistence that African organizations control their national development agendas, policies, and programs. These African professionals will collectively shape the enabling environment for local and international private investment in African agri-food systems and hence influence the pace of economic transformation in the region. This policy brief describes this changed landscape and the opportunities being created for developing innovative and effective new partnerships between US and African institutions engaged in African agri-food systems. It will outline a strategic framework to maintain US engagement in this effort, which centers on sustained commitment to capacity strengthening and leadership of African agricultural institutions.