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September 14th, 2016

Growth and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa: the role of agricultural development

Published by UNU-WIDER,

This book by UNU-WIDER comprehensively evaluates trends in living conditions in 16 major sub-Saharan African countries, corresponding to nearly 75% of the total population. A striking diversity of experience emerges. While monetary indicators improved in many countries, others are yet to succeed in channeling the benefits of economic growth into the pockets of the poor. Some countries experienced little economic growth, and saw little material progress for the poor. At the same time, the large majority of countries have made impressive progress in key non-monetary indicators of wellbeing. An important message from ten of the countries they looked at is that there are potentially high returns to policies that take agriculture seriously. Countries that place a particular emphasis on upgrading the capabilities of small-scale farmers are more likely to achieve broad-based development objectives. And failure to take agriculture seriously, particularly smallholder agriculture, will leave people behind according to their research. It will also drive up food prices and imports, and dim growth prospects. In Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda they found an extended period of broad-based, and sometimes rapid, agricultural growth had been a substantial driver of growth and poverty reduction. The case of Ethiopia is particularly interesting. It has explicitly pursued agricultural development-led industrialisation and shows very strong efforts by the government to stimulate agriculture. In the cases of Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania – those with relatively rapid growth and limited poverty reduction – weak agricultural productivity growth is identified as an underlying factor to the relative stagnation of monetary poverty rates. The authors conclude that agricultural productivity growth remains a powerful lever for achieving poverty reduction. This applies especially where large parts of the population are mired in low productivity subsistence agriculture. Prolonged and rapid growth in the sector, driven by increases in productivity, should be seen as critical to the industrialisation aspirations of the sub-continent.

Curated from theconversation.com