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African agriculture

Avoiding the “Harm” in Harmonized Standards for Food Staples in Africa

John Keyser's picture

Preparing vegetables taken from garden, Mongu, Zambia. Source - Felix Clay/DuckrabbitAfrica’s imports of staple foods could more than triple in the next 15 years. Without an increase in crop yields and an improvement in the trade of surplus food from areas with good growing conditions to deficit zones, importing sufficient amounts of staple food could cost the continent upwards of US$150 billion per year by 2030.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. As the World Bank showed in its 2012 report, Africa Can Help Feed Africa, the continent could easily deliver improved food security to its citizens through increased regional trade.

Often the nearest source of inputs or best outlet for farm products is a across a border, yet high costs and unpredictable rules make trade difficult and discourage investments by small farmers in raising productivity and large investments by private companies in input supply and food marketing.

Facilitating regional trade is therefore more important than ever for reducing poverty and meeting Africa’s growing demand for staple foods.

Africa’s big gender gap in agriculture #AfricaBigIdeas

Michael O’Sullivan's picture


Women are less productive farmers than men in Sub-Saharan Africa. A new evidence-based policy report from the World Bank and the ONE Campaign, Leveling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa, shows just how large these gender gaps are. In Ethiopia, for example, women produce 23% less per hectare than men. While this finding might not be a “big” counter-intuitive idea (or a particularly new one), it’s a costly reality that has big implications for women and their children, households, and national economies.

The policy prescription for Africa’s gender gap has seemed straightforward: help women access the same amounts of productive resources (including farm inputs) as men and they will achieve similar farm yields. Numerous flagship reports and academic papers have made this very argument.

Oh no--not another apps challenge!

Maja Andjelkovic's picture


Wanted: Mobile apps for African agriculture (Credit: infoDev)

Today, there are close to 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. Sixty-five percent of the continent’s labor force works in agriculture or related sectors and it accounts for 32% of the gross domestic product. Mobile innovations are already improving efficiencies in the agricultural value chain; research shows that grain traders with mobile application usage experienced income growth of 29% and banana farmers in Uganda saw their revenues go up with 36%.

The mAgri Challenge, a business competition, has been designed to identify and support entrepreneurs developing mobile apps for agriculture in Africa.  If you have worked with mobile tech entrepreneurs in Africa over the last few years, you might be thinking: “Not another mobile apps challenge!”  This ‘competition fatigue’ is not completely unwarranted.  Too many quick competitions for mobile apps, which at first seemed cool and generated lots of attention, have left in their wake a pool of mobile entrepreneurs confused about the next steps they can take to grow their business.

Some (Possibly Heretical) Thoughts on Agriculture

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Since the publication of the 2008 World Development Report, there has been a vigorous discussion in the development community about agriculture; today’s publication of the World Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan is a milestone in that process.  To stimulate further discussion on the subject, here are some thoughts from a garden-variety economist.

1. The oft-quoted statement, “GDP growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating from other sectors,” is an arithmetical point, not an economic point.  It simply reflects the fact that 75 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.