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Africa's Agricultural and Rural Development

By: Evans Osabuohien

Recent occurrences in the global arena, such as volatile commodity and resource markets, suggest the urgent need for African countries to develop policy options that can mitigate resource constraints and their attendant consequences. The transformation and development of Africa’s agricultural sector, especially the development of functional value chains, hold huge potentials for African economies through employment creation, income generation, and improvement of household livelihoods. In addition, the development of rural areas through the conscious creation of social amenities will ensure that Africa’s rural spaces are more ‘habitable,’ particularly for the burgeoning population of youths who have both the energy and ingenuity for productive adventures. Thus, these twin processes (agricultural transformation and rural development) hold great promises for Africa’s future, particularly with respect to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

A new book, The Palgrave Handbook of Agricultural and Rural Development in Africa (edited by Evans Osabuohien), offers an in-depth exploration of agricultural and rural development in Africa from theoretical, empirical, and policy standpoints. It gives a robust treatise on the developmental issues that need to be tackled in rural areas’ agricultural transformation processes and accentuates the importance of Africa’s agricultural sector for the region’s food sustainability, poverty reduction, employment creation, and value chain development. The book, written by 63 authors from academia, industry, and policy spaces, also examines the interconnectedness of the different issues impacting agricultural and rural development in Africa.

Generally, rural transformation and development entail the improvement of quality of life in rural areas, including both agricultural and non-agricultural activities. These improvements include investments in health, education, and rural infrastructure, the development of functional markets and value chains, and the promotion of inclusive empowerment of rural populations. Thus, transformation is usually embedded in development.

The Palgrave Handbook of Agricultural and Rural Development in Africa provides several key messages and the some facts and policy suggestions for harnessing the potential of agricultural and rural development in Africa.

  1. Employment Creation and Development: Employment creation could lead to economic growth and development in Africa through the creation of wealth and improvement of the welfare of the continent’s citizenry. Thus, there is a need for African countries to strengthen their plans and policies regarding job creation in order to improve livelihood conditions.
  2. Agricultural Finance, Technology, and Development: In many African countries, the agricultural sector remains the primary source of livelihoods, especially in rural areas. The sector contributes an average of 15% of gross domestic products (GDP) in the region. Therefore, the need to transform agricultural practices to be seen as enterprises (i.e. agriprenurship) through access to finance and innovative technological support is paramount.  This transformation would also help make the agricultural sector more appealing for the youths.
  3. Agro-industrialisation and Development: Agro-industrialisation is a vital mechanism for enhancing the productivity and development of the agricultural sector. The process would provide the needed forward and backward linkages between agriculture and other sectors, such as manufacturing and services, in African countries.
  4. Land Access and Household Livelihood: The improvement of access to land, particularly for women who are significant players in Africa’s agricultural sector, will enhance smallholders’ productivity, profitability, sustainability, and overall livelihood outcomes. Thus, the development of land policy through an orderly and effective legal framework is crucial and could enhance the welfare of Africa’s smallholder farmers.
  5. Food Security and Agricultural Value Chain Development: The agricultural value chain entails the sequence of interlinked agents and markets that help in the transformation of raw materials to final products, which is essential in achieving food security. Factors that need to be addressed in the development of the agricultural value chain include the provision of storage facilities, feeder roads, and requisite market information, among others. These factors are essential to meet Africa’s growing food demand and to minimise post-harvest losses, which will lessen the burden of food importation.

The book also argues that agricultural finance is vital to achieving the transformation and development of the African agricultural sector. In addition to providing farmers with agricultural inputs, policymakers should also provide credit facilities that are linked to the purchase of those inputs. The adoption of improved agricultural technologies, a key mechanism for enhancing agricultural income and the general welfare of rural households, could be strengthened through providing this or some other forms of finance to farmers.

As “the global economy ship sails through turbulence” occasioned by uncertainties and socio-political upheavals, agricultural transformation and rural development provide critical pathways to help African countries better weather the storm.

 

This new book builds on Labour Issues in Africa’s Agricultural and Rural Transformation , which was guest edited by Evans Osabuohien for the African Journal of Economic and Management Studies.

Evans Osabuohien is a Professor of Economics and the Chair, Centre for Economic Policy & Development Research (CEPDeR) at Covenant University, Nigeria . He is also Alexander von Humboldt Visiting Professor at Witten/Herdecke University, Germany as well as a Visiting Fellow at University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam