Seeding Solutions for Agricultural Growth to End Poverty in Africa

April 24, 2013

  • More than 70% of Africa’s poor live in rural areas where agriculture is the most important activity
  • Urban food markets are booming in Africa, creating a potential trillion-dollar regional market for African producers by 2030, more than triple its current size
  • Prices of all major African agricultural products increased dramatically in the decade beginning in 2000

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2013 -- With its abundance of tillable land, untapped water, and a young, eager labor force, Africa is poised for a massive expansion of agricultural production, according to a new World Bank report.

In “Unlocking Africa’s Agricultural Potential” released earlier this month, economists, policy analysts, and researchers detail a unique confluence of factors that are positively affecting agriculture in Africa. The report, one in a new Africa Region Sustainable Development Series, explores how the World Bank can help Africa take advantage of these factors to begin its own Green Revolution and create an agricultural industry that is the powerful engine of development it could be.

“A country’s economic, environmental and social well-being is intricately linked to a healthy, well- performing agricultural sector,” said Jamal Saghir, director of the World Bank Africa Region’s Sustainable Development Department. “With this report, we want to seed solutions that can help accelerate the fight to end poverty in Africa.”

A number of factors have changed Africa’s farming environment for the better and set the stage for the continent’s Green Revolution. These include a steady rise in the prices of agricultural products, a booming urban food market that is projected to triple in size by 2030, and significant improvements in government policies directed at agriculture such as reduced or eliminated taxes and revised exchange rate policies.

“Across Africa, south of the Sahara, agriculture is the predominant sector in the economies of most countries, and provides jobs for over two-thirds of Africa’s population,” said Martien van Nieuwkoop, the World Bank sector manager for agriculture in the Africa Region. “With this publication, we want to galvanize action and forge new partnerships that can help Africa to achieve a vibrant farm economy that contributes to more growth, more jobs, better food and an overall improvement in the quality of livelihoods, particularly for poor people.”

The Plan

To help Africa achieve increased agriculture production will require a long-term strategy that delivers simultaneously on productivity growth and market connections, while enhancing resilience to climate change. Over the next 10 years, the plan includes scaling up Bank lending to about US$3 billion per year, with ambitious targets in five key areas:

  • Irrigation: Doubling irrigated areas from the current 20% to 40% by 2030
  • Land administration: Moving from moving from small-scale projects to larger, systematic projects with a push to scale up best practices and improve tenure security
  • Technology and education: Improving access to technology, climate-smart agriculture, and other yield enhancing inputs such as fertilizers and insecticides
  • Market competitiveness: Reducing trade barriers and improve market performance to double trade in 10 years
  • Financial services: Unlocking lending and long-term financing, diversify commercial bank portfolios, and provide financial services through information and communication technology (ICT) platforms

“Increasing investments in the farm economy can deliver high-impact development returns such as increasing rural incomes, boosting food security, making cheap and more nutritious food available to Africa’s bustling cities and protecting the environment through innovations such as climate smart agriculture,” said John Nash, Lead Economist, Africa Region Sustainable Development Department. “Despite the many challenges, now is the time for Africa to realize the full potential of its agriculture sector.”