The 2000s were Africa’s “decade of growth.” Countries in Africa south of the Sahara reached milestones in the 21st century’s first decade that once seemed impossible, achieving improved governance, macroeconomic stability, and sustained economic growth that exceeded the region’s performance in previous decades. Among the economic sectors that improved was agriculture, which grew 3.4 percent per year over 2001-2010, outpacing Africa’s population growth rate, which was 2.5 percent, for the first time in the last three decades. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector’s growth has lagged behind national economic growth in Africa. Given that most poor people are dependent on farming, this slow growth is an obstacle to regional poverty reduction. Poverty and malnutrition remain severe and widespread south of the Sahara. Additional effort is required to build on recent successes and further reduce poverty in Africa south of the Sahara.
One promising development is African governments’ commitment, through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which is given technical support by IFPRI, to promoting a flourishing agricultural sector. CAADP participants have pledged to spend 10 percent of public resources on their respective nations’ agriculture, with the goal of an annual agricultural growth rate of 6 percent. To date, eight nations have reached this spending goal. Public resources need to be carefully invested to promote agriculture effectively, however.
IFPRI researchers conducted a study of 10 African nations south of the Sahara to determine how agricultural growth can contribute to poverty reduction and how public investment can foster this desired growth. In particular, the researchers examined which agricultural subsectors are more likely to drive overall growth and poverty reduction. The study findings were published in Strategies and Priorities for African Agriculture: Economywide Perspectives from Country Studies. Although regional diversity makes generalization difficult, the study does reach some overall conclusions with practical implications for African policymakers. One important finding is that producing more staple crops such as maize, pulses, and roots and more livestock products tends to reduce poverty further than producing more export crops such as coffee or cut flowers. These and other findings point to promising future policies for African nations.