As in most developing countries worldwide, the private sector in Senegal is relatively underrepresented in the conduct of agricultural R&D. In 2008, private companies represented just 14 percent of the country’s total agricultural R&D spending, with the public sector (mainly ISRA, ITA, and the universities) carrying out the vast majority. Since the turn of the millennium, the private sector’s role has only marginally increased. The reasons for this limited private involvement in agricultural R&D in Senegal are manifold. Many private companies operate with limited competition, discouraging future R&D investment. Furthermore, most companies lack long-term vision when it comes to the benefits of research, and many believe that new technologies will eventually spillover from the public sector or from abroad, eliminating their need to invest their resources. A more enabling environment for private R&D needs to be created to change this perspective. A large number of companies mentioned that government policies and regulations (and their poor implementation) hamper large-scale private R&D and innovation. Among those cited were the lengthy administrative procedures required to import agricultural inputs; the stringent regulations involved in registering and releasing new products; the lack of enforcement of laws to eliminate unfair foreign competition that disadvantages Senegalese companies; the widespread piracy of private innovations, and the lack of tax incentives to reward companies who invest in innovation.
Nonetheless, the Senegalese government has taken various measures in recent years to stimulate private participation in agricultural R&D and innovation. Regional seed, fertilizer, pesticide, and livestock regulations have been harmonized to reduce trade barriers in the sub-region. Additional national initiatives, such as the establishment of the competitive fund, FNRAA, to stimulate private-sector involvement in R&D and the launch of the ambitious government plan to boost food production, GOANA, have provided tremendous opportunities to the private sector and have enhanced public–private partnerships in agricultural R&D and innovation. Though the Senegalese government identified food self-sufficiency as one of its top priorities, it is widely criticized for lacking a clear sense of direction in the area of agricultural innovation. Four different government agencies are currently charged with setting the country’s agricultural innovation agenda, and they often have overlapping and even conflicting mandates.
Despite the limited overall involvement of the private sector in agricultural R&D and innovation in Senegal, the private sector plays an important innovative role in key export areas. While the government sector dominates the country’s agricultural R&D system when it comes to food crops, companies like SENCHIM, Suneor, SODEFITEX, and SPIA are major innovators in the groundnut and cotton subsectors, which provide Senegal with its principal export crops. In fact, these companies play a more crucial role than the public agencies in the release of new varieties and in providing timely, high-quality solutions to crop diseases. The horticultural and fisheries subsectors have also demonstrated their capacity to innovate in recent years. Innovations in food processing, storage, and packaging have enabled many Senegalese products to meet strict European quality and hygiene standards, boosting Senegal’s exports in these areas. In addition, an increasing number of private innovations are being patented, both locally and abroad.
The current study was the first of its kind to assess the role of the private sector in Senegal’s agricultural R&D and innovation. Despite various limitations, the results provide a comprehensive overview of the private sector’s role in generating and introducing new and improved agricultural technologies for Senegal’s farmers and processors, as well as the policy considerations that need to be addressed if private technology generation is to be facilitated and enhanced.
Nonetheless, more in-depth analysis is needed on the projected impact of changes in government policy on the level of private innovation, and on linkages between private innovation and improvements in food security and poverty levels.
On this basis, an overarching recommendation arising from this study is for its existing dataset to be maintained over time, and for the number of sample companies to be expanded so that the dataset can continue to provide a useful source of information for the Senegalese government, donor organizations, private companies, and other stakeholders in setting both policy and priorities into the future.