We use the concept of the product space to analyze the key features of the transformation process in Africa with a focus on the agricultural sector. Between 1962 and 2008, we find that both specialization and diversification occur for the overall economy and across sectors. Our findings also confirm that the transformation of the African economy is driven primarily by the increasing specialization of nonagricultural exports. However, the transformation process is still moving more slowly than that of an emerging economy such as Brazil. The index of specialization of agricultural exports grew at a modest annual rate of 2.1 percent between 1962 and 2008, compared to 5.0 percent for nonagricultural exports and 4.1 percent for the overall economy. Although substantive achievements are observed in terms of product specialization or sophistication, the diversification of agricultural exports is rather insignificant. Compared to Africa, Brazil appears to have experienced a more balanced process in terms of both specialization and diversification of its agriculture. African countries’ specific transformation dynamics are heterogeneous, suggesting that a one-size-fits-all strategy to boost the agricultural sector in Africa is probably not the best option. Therefore, we advocate that the goals and principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) be adapted and customized to individual countries and incorporated into their strategies to enhance the transformation process of the African agricultural sector.
A product space approach
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)