Breakout Session 4

Transforming Agriculture

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Agriculture is the bedrock of Africa’s economic tranformation

Breakout Session 4 Papers:

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First, Transform Agriculture

Summary of paper: ‘Modernizing agriculture to power Africa’s economic transformation’ prepared by Yaw Ansu (ACET)

Africa has nearly 60% of the world’s arable, uncultivated land and well over half of those employed in Africa work in agriculture.

Yet the continent spends around $ 35 billion per annum on food imports.

The experience of countries that have undergone their Green Revolutions shows that rising agricultural productivity is central to overall economic transformation. How can Africa replicate this experience?

African agriculture is characterized by low-productivity in the traditional smallholder sector (over 80 %) with farmers generally uneducated and operating with little modern inputs or commercial orientation.

In addition, the large-scale and modern commercial farm sector is very small and generally owned by ethnic minorities or foreignfirms. The ‘missing middle’ is made up of struggling small and medium-sized modern commercial sector owned by nationals. Finally, there are weak linkages with other sectors and little domestic processing of agricultural products.

Fortunately, new opportunities can be seized to help address the challenges. What Africa has going for it is abundant uncultivated arable land, a warm climates allowing year-round cultivation, increasing urbanisation and a growing middle class creating demand for food; and a new determination in the policy space, for instance the AU’s CAADP Process and Declarations, and possibilities of using ICT for technological leap-frogging.


Within a generation, African agriculture should be characterized by:

  • A smallholder sector with better access to inputs, services, and knowledge to be more productive and resilient;
  • An expanding SME commercial sector owned by educated young Africans;
  • A Large-scale commercial sector that is in harmony with communities and smaller farmers;
  • Better links with manufacturing.

The pay off

  • Providing sufficient food for African households
  • Maintaining globally competitive wages due to reduced food costs
  • Providing reliable inputs to agroprocessing industries
  • Expanding employment and raising incomes
  • Greater disposable incomes will increase demand on goods and services
  • Boosting agricultural exports and reducing food imports.

What is required

  • Raise productivity on farms
  • Increase training of farmers
  • Improve storage, markets and logistics
  • Improve policy environment for manufacturing of agricultural inputs
  • Ensure that women share benefits equally
  • Sustain the environment and respond to climate change.


  • How can communal land tenure systems be reformed?
  • How to incentivize educated youth to go into agriculture?
  • What roles should the state play?
  • What is the scope of public-private collaboration?
  • What should be the role of external actors, including donors?

Breakout Session 4 Papers:

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ATF2016 Breakout Sessions

Youth Skills & Employment
Promoting Financial Inclusion
Facilitating Trade and Regional Integration
Transforming Agriculture
Seizing New Opportunities in Manufacturing
Managing Extractives for Transformation
Managing and Financing Energy Infrastructure

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