Identifying key drivers to help transform African agriculture

By Mills Soko

The Green Revolution propelled India from a country plagued by famine and drought to the top wheat-producer in the world. It helped to fuel one of the fastest-growing global economies and it could be the example so many African countries need to realise their agricultural potential.1


While countries on the African continent have shown impressive economic development and growth over the past decade and are expected to grow on average by about 4% in 2019, the African Development Bank (ADB) has warned that there may be trouble ahead.2 The continent is likely to be negatively affected by increasing tension stemming from global trade wars, Brexit and the resulting changes to investment and lower demand for exports from Africa. This is in addition to the crop failures and lower yields that are already being experienced as a result of climate change due to higher temperatures and lower rainfall.3

To mitigate some of these impacts, the ADB has reiterated the need for greater trade amongst countries on the continent as well as placing more emphasis on generating and improving the state of agriculture in the region. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has enormous agricultural potential – the region has 60% of the globally available, arable land, but has been unable to capitalise on it.4  The continent has gone from being an exporter of food in the 1960s to an importer of food and agricultural products. Agriculture currently accounts for nearly 24% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa.5

Farming in SSA is largely small-scale, with insufficient irrigation, a lack of modern technology and fertiliser resulting in poor output. Meanwhile, hunger is growing on the continent with the fastest growing population on the planet. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), 31% of the 821 million people globally who are affected by hunger come from Sub-Saharan Africa.6

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Mills Soko is Professor in International Business and Strategy at Wits Business School.  His research focuses on business strategy, international trade, economic diplomacy, emerging markets especially the BRICS countries, regional integration in Africa, financial globalisation, and business-government relations in South Africa.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.