Transforming African agriculture for the benefit of millions of poor people is both important and complex. Below, we take a systems-based view of collective efforts to date, and ask “what next” is required to maintain the gathering momentum.
Shared understanding: Clarity on problems but not solutions.
Whilst stakeholders emphasise different priorities depending on their relative point of view, a broad consensus exists on the challenges facing Africa’s agricultural economies and smallholder production specifically, with a great deal of research available.
However, how to fundamentally change the dynamics is less well understood amongst protagonists. Positively, partnership models are being embraced to commercially develop value chains and wider market systems; and approaches to land tenure reform are tested, even if political will is hard to secure.
A big puzzle remains how to lift smallholder incomes meaningfully. Pockets of success exist, but evidence of impact at scale is hard to find. Related to this, there are few answers on how to economically empower women in agriculture, who are the majority of farmers, often the poorest and yet who offer the best development returns. With farmers and agribusinesses struggling to succeed season to season, their adaptation to the longer-term threat of climate change is often weak.
Securing commitment: Joint ambitions need translating into collective action
In 2014, the African Union’s Malabo Declaration committed the continent to achieve compelling goals for agriculture by 2025 – from 6% sector growth to ending hunger. A multistakeholder, market-driven, inclusive, evidence-based, country-led approach to reach these goals is clearly defined by the CAADP country guide.
The majority of countries and Regional Economic Communities have, or are updating, Agricultural Investment Plans that set their priorities and implementation modalities aligned to Malabo goals. Country Agribusiness Partnership Frameworks are structuring cross-sector partners around strategic value chains and committing them to act in concert, albeit not yet at adequate scale.
The architecture for accountability is centred around annual Joint Sector Reviews inviting cross-sector partners to examine progress at country-level. These reviews intend to feed up to Africa’s performance review and scorecard for agriculture, comprising the ‘Biennial Review’, through which the African Union presents country progress to Heads of Governments. This creates peer pressure and aggregates for regional performance reviews so as to prompt action on shared barriers.
However, a huge challenge remains in ensuring all this goal-setting and process-planning translates in to action. The Malabo goals, scorecard and review processes often have low visibility at country-level and barely register on the political radar for international partners. Efforts are underway to change this. National implementation is compromised by resource and capacity gaps that undermine cross-sector collaboration.