2011 Global Food Policy Report

Apart from 2011’s global challenges and opportunities for food policy, important developments with potentially wide repercussions took place in individual regions and countries, which are discussed in this chapter. As 2011 opened, events in Tunisia ignited the “Arab Awakening” in North Africa and the Arab world, posing new challenges for food security in the region. To the south, Sub-Saharan Africa made progress on its continent-wide framework for raising agricultural growth to improve food security and reduce poverty. That region also pushed forward with efforts to increase agricultural productivity and incomes while pursuing economic transformation beyond agriculture. Therefore, although a food crisis struck the Horn of Africa, progress elsewhere belies the image of a continent mired in gloom. India, having already achieved economic growth and higher agricultural productivity, turned its attention to domestic food security. It responded to an extraordinary right-to-food movement by implementing the world’s largest antihunger program and revived other initiatives designed to overcome malnutrition, which remains high despite the country’s economic success.

Food security at home was also the primary goal of China’s major 2011 food policies and investments, which focused on water conservation and agricultural research and development. China also engaged in agricultural development abroad, particularly in Africa—though its engagement is smaller and of longer standing than often believed (see Box 12 in Chapter 8). Brazil has been even more proactive in increasing its role in the global food system. By successfully expanding agricultural production, the country has solidified its position in world agricultural markets and become an increasingly active player on the international scene (see Box 13 in Chapter 8).

The Arab Awakening and Food Security

Clemens Breisinger, Olivier Ecker, Perrihan Al-Riffai, and Bingxin Yu, IFPRI

The self-immolation of a young Tunisian man in December 2010 sparked a wave of protests and uprisings across the Arab world in 2011. The Arab Awakening has most directly affected Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, but it may also provide impetus for change in other Arab countries. But with opportunities have come significant challenges for governments and civil society. In the short run, countries in transition have seen a sharp slowdown in economic growth and a related rise in unemployment. In addition, political fluidity, coupled with rising food and fuel prices, has led to widespread increases in food and fuel subsidies, public-sector wages, and other government welfare spending.1 As a result, oil-importing countries in particular face growing budget gaps, inflation in both oil-exporting and oil-importing countries is expected to rise, and foreign exchange reserves are expected to contract. Moreover, conflict and security concerns have dampened tourism, remittances, and foreign direct investment throughout the region.2 Mastering these short-term challenges will be critical for a successful transition process.

Achieving prosperity will also require addressing long-standing challenges in the region. Not only political issues, but also socioeconomic issues likely contributed to the onset of the Arab Awakening.3 These socioeconomic factors include unemployment, especially among the youth, growing income disparities, and a high risk of food insecurity for both countries and households (Figure 1). While public spending is relatively high in Arab countries, it contributes less to economic growth than it does in other world regions. And economic growth does not trickle down to the poor in Arab countries as readily as it does in the rest of the world. In most countries, agricultural growth, for instance, leads to substantial reductions in child undernutrition, but not in the Arab countries. Manufacturing and service sector–led growth in the Arab region is more in line with the rest of the world, and, given a conducive business environment, these sectors have large potential to create jobs and drive improvement in the well-being of the poor.

Figure 1: The risk of food insecurity in the Arab countries plus Iran and Turkey, 2011

Source: C. Breisinger, O. Ecker, P. Al-Riffai, and B. Yu, Beyond the Arab Awakening: Policies and Investments for Poverty Reduction and Food Security, IFPRI Food Policy Report (Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2012). Note: The risk of food insecurity describes the vulnerability of countries (macro-level) and households (micro-level). Download a larger version of Figure 1

Finding solutions to these challenges will require a broad economic road map and country-specific development strategies. Research can help with evidence that identifies the pros and cons of alternative policy options. To improve food security and reduce poverty, Arab policymakers should focus on the following key areas:

  1. Improve data and capacity for evidence-based decisionmaking. Decisions based on flawed data can damage economies, harm people’s well-being, and lead to significant financial losses, so policymakers and voters need realistic and accurate baseline data. Currently, some official numbers, such as official poverty and inequality indicators, may underestimate the extent of the problems facing many Arab countries. Admitting that these data are flawed will help increase the credibility of policymakers and allow them to set targets against which future progress can be more realistically assessed. Countries should not only improve the quality of their data, but also make that data more accessible.
  2. Foster growth that enhances food security. Fostering economic growth is fundamental for enhancing food security, yet certain types of growth do more to improve food security at the country level, whereas other types of growth have stronger effects on household-level food security. Export-led growth generates foreign exchange revenues for food imports and thus improves food security at the country level. Inclusive growth that generates jobs and increases incomes for the poor enhances food security at the household level. Growth, combined with appropriate tax systems, also generates government revenues that can be directed to public spending on food security.
  3. Improve the efficiency and allocation of public spending. Arab countries urgently need to revisit the efficiency and allocation of public spending and make improvements where necessary. In general, most oil-exporting countries with fiscal surpluses can compensate for inefficiencies by increasing spending, whereas oil-importing countries with fiscal deficits must reallocate spending and improve spending efficiency to achieve development goals. Both oil importers and oil exporters, however, should have a genuine interest in achieving higher returns on their spending. A wide array of country-specific factors affects public expenditure efficiency, such as the level of economic development, the size of the public sector, public-sector competence, governance, political stability, and security of property rights. As in the case of growth strategies, investment plans have to account for country-specific conditions. These investment plans should also be aligned with growth strategies at the subsector and subnational levels to ensure maximum consistency and development impact.

Designing and implementing these and other policy and investment priorities will require visionary leadership, sound laws and institutions, politicians who are accountable and listen to the voices of the people, and a civil society that is patient and accepts the tenets of democracy. The Arab world has awakened. It is now time to take the steps necessary for a food-secure Arab world without poverty.

Africa: Moving beyond Recovery to Economic Transformation

Ousmane Badiane, IFPRI

After decades of stagnation, African economies embarked on a remarkable recovery that started in the late 1990s and continues today. As a region, Sub-Saharan Africa is growing at average rates exceeding 5 percent annually.4 The next challenge for African countries is to move from recovery to economic transformation (see Box 16). Such a transformation will require countries to raise productivity in the agricultural and rural sectors while diversifying into higher-productivity, urban-based manufacturing and service sectors that produce higher-value goods and services. The result would be greater overall economic productivity and progress in lifting rural incomes toward the level of urban incomes.

Box 16

Pushing for Progress on Agriculture in Africa

Tsitsi Makombe, IFPRI

The year 2011 brought significant progress in the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, the African Union’s continent-wide framework guiding national efforts to increase agricultural growth and progress toward poverty reduction and food and nutrition security. Six countries held Programme roundtables and signed compacts, bringing to 29 the number of countries that have done so. Most countries have now adopted a national agricultural investment plan following a technical review of the plan and a business meeting that validated the plan and determined how it would be financed.

In the national agricultural investment plans, countries have pledged to raise their agricultural investment level. The Programme asks governments to increase agricultural spending to 10 percent of national budgets and achieve an annual agricultural growth rate of 6 percent. Based on the latest available data, only 8 countries have reached the 10 percent budget target, while 17 attained growth rates of at least 6 percent in 2009.1 More countries are expected to move toward the budget target following their adoption of national agricultural investment plans. For example, Rwanda’s agricultural budget share was just 3.5 percent in 2007 when the country signed its compact. But after Rwanda completed a national agricultural investment plan in 2009, the country’s agricultural budget share rose to 6.8 percent by 2010–11.2

Donors intensified their Programme alignment and harmonization efforts in 2011. They funded the Programme bilaterally and multilaterally through its Multi-donor Trust Fund and Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The Multi-donor Trust Fund supports Programme implementation processes while the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program addresses potential underfunding of national agricultural investment plans. With a US$46.5 million grant in 2011 to support Liberia’s national agricultural investment plan, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program has now allocated more than US$270 million to support the national agricultural investment plans of six African countries.

The Programme implementation process has had its challenges. Engagement of civil society and the private sector has been limited in some countries while some national agricultural investment plans have had unrealistic growth and poverty reduction targets and funding requirements. Nonetheless, these challenges are already being addressed. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (the African Union’s planning and coordinating agency) and development partners commissioned guidelines for nonstate-actor participation, and the 7th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Partnership Platform meeting, held in March 2011, called for their systematic and targeted dissemination across countries. Efforts are also underway to strengthen country implementation capacity and improve the quality of national agricultural investment plans. For example, Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support Systems in individual countries—which are being established with the technical support of the International Food Policy Research Institute and Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support Systems—are expected to improve analytical and review capacities for evidence-based agricultural policy planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. It is noteworthy that Programme implementation coincides with the continent’s agricultural growth recovery.3 Renewed agricultural growth provides a solid foundation for African countries as they work to implement their agricultural investment plans.

1 - Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS), www.resakss.org, accessed March 16, 2012. [Back]
2 - Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), Republic of Rwanda, Budget Laws for 2006–2011, www.minecofin.gov.rw/ministry/directorates/nb, accessed March 26, 2012. [Back]
3 - Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), Republic of Rwanda, Budget Laws for 2006–2011, www.minecofin.gov.rw/ministry/directorates/nb, accessed March 26, 2012. [Back]

Unbalanced Growth

During most of the period preceding the current recovery, overall productivity in African countries has stagnated at best. This happened because labor migrated from the relatively better-performing agricultural sector into the nonagricultural sector, which is dominated by the less productive yet rapidly expanding service sector.5 Major factors behind this process have been the relative neglect of agriculture in national polices and the rapid pace of urbanization. Because the share of people employed in agriculture has fallen much faster than their productivity has risen, agriculture as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has declined rapidly in most African countries. In most of these countries, labor has migrated out of agriculture faster than it can be absorbed into the nonagriculture sector, undermining productivity growth—not only in agriculture, but in the economy as a whole. The problem is as much slow growth in agriculture as it is poor labor absorption outside agriculture.

For the average African country, the size of the agriculture sector as a share of GDP is nearly 20 percentage points smaller than one would expect based on the actual level of economic development. The service sector, on the other hand, is about 20 percentage points larger than one would expect.6 This imbalance in the growth of the two sectors has slowed productivity and income growth across Africa. How can African countries capitalize on the ongoing agricultural and economic growth recovery of the past 15 years to boost the transformation of their economies?

Not Just Agriculture, but Industrialization

To achieve successful structural change, countries need to produce more sophisticated, higher-value goods for which demand expands globally as incomes rise around the world. The decades of economic stagnation preceding Africa’s current recovery meant that African economies failed to promote product sophistication. From 1962 to 2000, the average indicator of the degree of sophistication of all products produced by African countries was 50 to 60 percent lower than the estimated average for a sample of 97 other countries.7 The value of the estimated indicator for agricultural products not only is low, but has stagnated since the 1960s.

During the 1960s, most African countries pursued an industrialization strategy led by the public sector and designed to substitute for imported goods. The widespread failure of these efforts has left most African countries without any bold and credible strategies for industrialization.

Successful economic transformation is associated with a series of changes in the overall economy. These changes include a rise in the absolute and relative size of industrial output; an increase in the number and nature of industrial goods; new techniques for combining labor, capital, and technology to produce goods in industry, as well as changes in the related costs; and a change in the sources supplying the economy with existing and new products.8 In this process, industrial enterprises need to learn how to combine and recombine existing and new assets to establish new businesses and create products to address new markets.9

The risks and uncertainties faced by entrepreneurs in producing a new good for the first time are a major determinant of an economy’s capacity to diversify into higher-productivity goods. As they increase their investments in agricultural development,10 African countries also need renewed industrialization strategies to build on the current recovery. Such strategies should target the technological, institutional, and infrastructural factors that raise the level of risk and uncertainty related to entrepreneurial innovation. Ultimately, industrialization policies should expand a country’s arsenal of technologies and its ability to apply them to create new, higher-valued goods.11 African countries will need to rediscover ways of stimulating industrial growth and may need to look at emerging Asian countries, where public action in support of industrial growth has been a central element of economic development.12

Africa’s industrial policies should seek to encourage the creation and growth of enterprises, not just in industry, but also in agribusiness and the informal sector. In the first three decades of the 21st century, demand for food in Africa is expected to grow by US$100 billion, of which one-third could be met by smallholders.13 This rising demand creates a real incentive and opportunity for industrialization based on agribusiness in the medium term. Strategies should include not only programs to raise productivity on farms, but also development of new processing and packaging technologies to support product innovation and creation of competitive distribution networks and transport infrastructure that cross national boundaries. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program can be helpful here by promoting evidence-based policy planning and implementation and creating opportunities for strategic public-private partnerships and business-to-business alliances. Industrialization policies should also focus on the informal sector currently producing low-quality household goods. This sector has huge potential for enterprise growth and consolidation, as well as product improvement and innovation.14

India: Enshrining the Right to Food

M. S. Swaminathan, M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation

Hunger and malnutrition have long devastated the people and progress of India. In 2011, the Indian government took a major step toward putting an end to this injustice nationwide (see Box 17). With the introduction of the National Food Security Act, India’s “ship-to-mouth” existence (as the country’s previous reliance on food shipments is commonly termed) is en route to one of food security and health through the implementation of the world’s largest social-protection program against hunger using homegrown food.

In light of the conditions that have prevailed in India since its independence in 1947, the National Food Security Act is nothing short of historic, as it positions institutions and individuals to radically reduce hunger and malnutrition. In the recent past, specifically during the 1960s, India received the highest amount of concessional food aid worldwide; in 1966 alone, the country imported more than 10 million tons of wheat. Today, based on the requirements of the new National Food Security Act, India is due to commit more than 60 million tons of homegrown wheat, rice, and millet at a highly subsidized price to citizens living below the poverty line. This is only one of the numerous ways that this new Act (once it is carefully reviewed, slightly amended, and enacted as law) promises a multi-faceted attack on hunger.

Despite India’s countless efforts to increase food and nutrition security in the past, widespread improvements have been minimal. A recent report states that “maternal and child undernutrition levels remain persistently and unacceptably high.”15 The 2011 edition of the Human Development Report points out that body mass index, which is a good measure of an individual’s nutritional status, has remained low for the past twenty-five years.16 But, how can this be so, when innovative programs designed to deliver nutrition, education, and healthcare in integrated ways (including the Integrated Child Development Service, the Mid-Day Meal Programme, and other programs initiated by international agencies like UNICEF and the World Food Programme) exist nationwide?

The answer is a lack of convergence and synergy between programs and across platforms. The Food Security Act must therefore ensure that programs address all essential components of food security. The draft of the bill introduced to Parliament in December 2011 focused only on economic access to food without making explicit reference to the other essential components of food security, including access to clean drinking water, sanitation, primary healthcare, and nutritional education. In its current form, the bill also neglects to mention the role of farmers or of public participation, although the panchayat raj institutions (whose members are elected by residents of their villages) and particularly gram sabhas (which provide a meeting where residents can raise concerns) can play a vital role in ensuring the effective and non-corrupt administration of legal entitlements.

To achieve widespread sustainable food and nutrition security, the draft legislation of the National Food Security Act will need to be carefully reviewed and strategically revised. The lifecycle approach to nutrition support should be embraced, and women should be granted legal entitlement as heads of household so that they are equally empowered to make financial and food-related decisions for their families. The public distribution of food should be strengthened, and the food basket within it should be expanded beyond wheat and rice to include nutritious cereals like jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet), ragi (finger millet), and maize. The Public Distribution System often sees difficulty with targeting, which can be a major source of corruption. In states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, governments may be unwilling to shift from their successful universal public distribution systems to a targeted national system, so an efficient system must have well-defined exclusion criteria and promote a culture of honesty (since those who do not need social protection from public funds would not demand highly subsidized food). In 2012, we hope to see the world’s largest social protection scheme begin to enable India to reap a demographic dividend from its youthful population.

With the right modifications and the will to carry it out, the Food Security Act will also create a win–win situation for both resource-poor farmers and consumers. Procurement at a remunerative price will be the greatest stimulus for increasing farm productivity and production. For this reason, substituting cash for grains, while tempting, must be avoided; currency can be printed, but grains can be produced only by farmers—who constitute nearly 700 million of India’s 1.2 billion people. It is the duty of a democratic society to ensure the well-being and survival of all people, and food security for all will help to assure income security for farm families.

Box 17

India’s Economy Roars Ahead but Nutritional Improvement Is Stalled

P. K. Joshi and Suneetha Kadiyala, IFPRI; S. Mahendra Dev, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research

India allocated additional resources in 2011 to ongoing programs aimed at reducing poverty and ending hunger and malnutrition. The country has high economic growth, bumper foodgrain production, and substantial food buffer stocks, which would usually indicate improvement in poverty and malnutrition numbers. However, poverty in India remains pervasive, malnutrition is widespread, and the country’s nutritional status lags far behind Brazil or China. To address this, the Government of India initiated, and is now supplementing, an array of programs and policy measures for the welfare of the poor, especially women and children.1

Currently, more than 40 percent of India’s population earns less than US$1.25 a day. Estimates show that one-third of all Indian women are underweight; almost half of Indian children are stunted and 40 percent are under-weight; and rates of micronutrient deficiencies are also extremely high. The key reasons for India’s nutrition numbers lagging so far behind its economic numbers are (1) low agricultural productivity; (2) low incomes for a majority of the rural population; and (3) poor people’s limited access to education and food, health, and nutrition programs.2 To boost incomes, among other concerns, the government’s budget outlay for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme increased from US$2.60 billion in 2006–07 to US$8.91 billion in 2010–11. This flagship program aims to enhance livelihood security of households in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year and mandates 33 percent participation by women.

The Scheme has generated employment opportunities in rural areas and has had a positive impact on consumption expenditure, intake of energy and protein, and asset accumulation by the rural poor. The government intends to expand the scope of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme by providing employment that creates permanent assets for the country (such as water conservation structures) and builds infrastructure (such as rural roads). To improve access to food, the public distribution system provides highly subsidized food to the population below the poverty line. The public distribution system is expected to be reoriented and implemented through the proposed Food Security Act. Implementation of the Act was expected in 2011 but is currently awaiting parliament approval. Many observers see mixed results from these programs, driven mainly by the variable quality of program governance and lack of appropriate coordination by different departments. The challenge is to make these programs efficient and more accessible to the poor, or effective at scale.

India has a long way to go to ensure nutritional security. Some estimates suggest that with the current pace of actions, the target of achieving the first Millennium Development Goal to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015 will be achieved by India only in 2042—a 28-year lag.3 This is unacceptable given the country’s outstanding economic performance. Programs and resources require convergence, transparent institutions, and inclusive governance for greater impact. Continued poverty and undernourishment would undermine India's progress as a high-performing emerging economy.
The pathways between agriculture and nutrition are now well recognized (see Chapter 6), which is why existing programs need to dovetail with agricultural improvements. A disconnect exists between agricultural production and nutritional security when, as in India, the majority of farmers holding less than two hectares are net buyers of food. Production of high-value and nutritive commodities—such as milk, poultry, meat, and fish—by smallholders would augment their income and make them food and nutrition secure.

1 - Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, Five Year Strategic Plan (2011­–2016), http://wcd.nic.in/MWCD_Strategic_Plan_10-02-2011.pdf, accessed March 16, 2012. [Back]
2 - A. Kumar, P. Kumar, Praduman, and A. N. Sharma, “Rural Poverty and Agricultural Growth in India: Implications for the Twelfth Five Year Plan,” Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 66, no. 3 (2011): 269–78. [Back]
3 - S. Kadiyala, P. K. Joshi, S. Mahendra Dev, T. Nanda Kumar, and V. S. Vyas, Strengthening the Role of Agriculture for a Nutrition-Secure India (New Delhi, India: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2011). [Back]

China: Feeding a Billion People

Jikun Huang, Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s most significant food policy development in 2011 was its decision to put food security firmly at the top of its list of concerns by making three important policy decisions. First, the nation’s most important policy document—the Number 1 Document—laid out plans to invest about US$630 billion in water conservancy in the next 10 years to combat increasing water scarcity. These plans include implementing institution and policy reforms to improve water-use efficiency.

Second, China has released the 2012 Number 1 Document specifically focused on innovation in agricultural science and technology and boosting agricultural productivity. The annual growth rate of public spending on agricultural research and development in real terms increased from an average of 16 percent from 2000–09 to more than 20 percent in 2010–11 and is expected to grow in the coming years.

Third, in November 2011 the national poverty standard, measured as annual per capita income in rural areas, was set at 2,300 yuan (about US$365), almost double the poverty standard in 2009. This is estimated to bring 13.4 percent of the rural population (or 128 million people) under the poverty alleviation program, which will have significant implications for poverty reduction and household food security.

China’s ability to feed a population growing in both size and income has been impressive considering the country’s natural-resource constraints. China supported more than 20 percent of the world’s population and achieved nearly 98 percent overall food self-sufficiency in 2010 despite per capita water availability that is only one-fourth of the world average and arable land that accounted for only 8 percent of the world total. China’s grain production grew for seven consecutive years from 2004 to 2010, and the government estimates that grain production surpassed 570 million tons in 2011, exceeding the record set just a year earlier.

China’s agricultural success in the past three decades has contributed significantly to improved national food security. The driving forces of this success include China’s household responsibility system, which distributed land equally to rural households; the application of science and technology to agriculture; investing in agricultural land and water; and market reform. However, it is hard to see how these successes can continue without significant innovation. For example, as Chinese citizens have seen their incomes increase, their demand for meat has also increased. This led China to shift from being a net exporter of maize—which is used as feed for farm animals—to a net importer in 2010. Given China’s natural resource constraints, the country will likely become a more important maize importer in the near future, making its food security more dependent on other countries. It is clear that while China’s accomplishments are impressive, great food-security challenges remain.

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