A strategic Review of how Science can make a difference in Agricultural Development in Africa
The major point of departure for this FARA Discussion Paper is the realization that a productive and efficient food and agricultural sector in Africa is essential for sustainable economic growth, food and nutritional security, as well as for political stability. The paper recognizes that Science can help deliver on the long-term national and regional goals of growth and stability. The purpose of the science agenda is, therefore, to advocate for the importance of science as part of the transformation process of agriculture in Africa. In this respect the paper seeks to influence African leaders, policymakers, research and science administrators, producer organizations and agribusiness entrepreneurs to take decisive and informed measures that would enable Science play its part in Africa’s agricultural transformation. The paper raises substantive questions as they relate to the essential ingredients of a long-term strategic framework for a Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (SAAA), and invites a discourse around these issues and questions. Some of the key questions raised include:
- How can science be pursued to address the needs of farmers and other operators along the value chain at different scales of operation?
- What type of science and associated priority thematic areas are needed to support the transformation of agriculture in Africa?
- What would be a more effective organizational architecture and the human capacity development needs and environment within which science could be pursued and delivered?
- What are the key policy considerations that need to be taken into account in terms of facilitating innovation, technology generation and transfer to end users and its utilization by them?
- How can the levels and sources of investment in science be determined that could best make a difference in the long-term?
In 2008, the SSA region spent $1.7 billion on agricultural R&D which was almost 20% higher than the levels recorded in 2001 and marks a considerable shift away from the slow 1.0% annual growth in agricultural R&D investments recorded in the 1990s. Most of this growth, however, occurred in only a few countries and, in the main, was due to increased government commitments to increase the very low salary levels and to repair and restore poorly maintained infrastructure, often following years of underinvestment. This means that in 2008, SSA invested $0.61 for every $100 of agricultural output on average, which was below NEPAD’s national R&D investment target of at least 1 percent of GDP.
Financing of agricultural R & D will remain a key issue that will influence the direction and content of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (SAAA) in most African countries for the foreseeable future.