While Africa holds more than 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, the continent’s share in global agricultural production remains low. Vast areas of land are uncultivated and productivity is lower than in much of the rest of the world. Nevertheless, farming is key for the majority of African economies and accounts for at least 15% of the region’s GDP. In addition, around two-thirds of the African population is employed within the sector, the vast majority working on small-scale farms that currently produce around 90% of all output.
Chronic long-term underinvestment and poor governance have resulted in a sector that has been unable to play a positive role in transforming the region’s economies, either by ensuring food security, creating jobs or reducing poverty. African agricultural productivity growth is about half that seen in other developing nations. Modest yields result, to a large extent, from the low use of fertilisers and improved seed strains, coupled with a lack of mechanisation and irrigation, and the impact of climate change.
However, despite the challenges faced, prospects for Africa’s agricultural sector are relatively positive. UN institutions expect cultivated areas to expand and farmers to increase productivity, through greater use of technology and improved inputs. According to the “Agriculture Outlook 2018-27” report from the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the sector will undergo robust growth, with crop production in sub-Saharan Africa projected to rise 30% between 2018 and 2028. Moreover, greater access to innovative technologies are expected to support the development and application of smart and precision farming techniques.
In spite of increased production, domestic demand in these states is set to continue to outstrip supply, with populations expected to double by 2050. Therefore, meeting consumption demand will continue to depend on global markets and imports over the medium term.
Meanwhile, the continent is facing growing challenges, of which climate change is anticipated to be the most influential, with millions of farmers and households already being directly affected. Experts have called for African governments to increase investment in agriculture, including in infrastructure, while also supporting the development of agri-business. These changes could help the sector to play a truly transformative role in supporting Africa’s successful long-term economic development.
This booklet contains interviews with Karim Lotfi Senhadji, CEO, OCP Africa; Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria; and Yves Brahima Koné, General Manager, Coffee and Cocoa Council of Côte d’Ivoire.