Foresight Africa 2016: Africa’s priorities for the year ahead

foresightafrica_2016promo_16x9In a recent post we discussed some of the priorities for global development research. The Foresight Africa report, by the Brookings Institution‘s Africa Growth Initiative, has been assessing and laying out Africa’s top priorities for the year ahead since 2011. The Foresight Africa project is a series of reports, commentaries and events that aim to help policymakers and Africa watchers stay ahead of the trends and developments impacting the continent. The new Foresight Africa report, is a collection of issue briefs, viewpoints, and infographics on the major issues for Africa in 2016.

In 2016, African countries will have to react to many changes and challenges coming from outside the continent such as shifting dynamics in the global economy; potential adverse effects of China’s and other emerging economies’ economic slowdown; and decreasing commodity prices, all of which will require mitigation and policy reform. Within its borders, Africa also faces many challenges, for example in trying to maintain its trade competitiveness, tackle youth unemployment, deal with rapid urbanisation, security threats and reduce barriers to human development. The Foresight Africa report believes that “if managed prudently with timely action from African policymakers in 2016, the continent could equally recover from external and internal shocks, accelerate regional growth, and further expand the benefits of growth to the more than one billion people living throughout Africa”.

The study identifies six priorities for 2016 that will help continue Africa’s current economic growth:

  1. Managing economic shocks (including the economic slowdown in China, declines in commodity prices, the US Federal Reserve interest rate hikes)
  2. Sustaining domestic growth: revitalize the region’s industrial development and focus on job creation
  3. Supporting human development
  4. Capitalizing on urbanization. As the second fastest urbanizing region in the world, Africa needs strong infrastructure and planning policies
  5. Maintaining governance gains: the regional governance puzzle and the complex institutional changes
  6. Expanding African trade: creating a comparative advantage and strengthening regional partnerships

Critically the report not only lays out priorities for African governments and policy makers, it provides different viewpoints on the best way to develop policy to cope with oncoming shocks and stresses and further development. For example, Njuguna S. Ndung’u, Associate Professor of Economics, at the University of Nairobi, discusses how African economies should build resilience to manage external shocks in 2016. Instead of cutting long-term development budgets in times of crisis, buffers at four levels need to be created ahead of coming shocks: foreign exchange reserves, strategic food reserves, oil reserves for oil-importing countries, and, in countries dependent on commodity prices, a fund for smoothing out commodity prices during times of extreme variability.

The report also discusses the Sustainable Development Goals, noting the common criticism that in trying to do everything the SDGs have become too large, too messy and too ambitious. But it is noted that due to Africa’s involvement in the development of the SDGs they are much better suited to the continents aspirations than the Millennium Development Goals were. An important focus of the both the SDGs and the Foresight Africa report is the need for jobs, which pay a living wage. In Africa only one in five workers find employment in the wage economy. The SDGs in Goal 9.2 sets as an objective: “By 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries.” Here the link between industry and jobs in made and the need for industrial development in Africa. [Read more…]

Agriculture is in every SDG: Part 1

By Alice Marks

Story-2-SDGsSkimming the eye across the colourful chart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is easy to spot a couple which are intrinsically and directly linked to agriculture, but a closer look reveals that they are in fact all linked to agriculture. A healthy global agricultural sector underpins and supports so many aims of the SDGs that its development will be important for their overall success. As sustainable agriculture is essential for sustainable food systems and livelihoods, here is a breakdown of how agriculture, farming and nutrition fit into the first 7 goals

1. No Poverty

Over 70% of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and rely heavily on agriculture for their survival and livelihoods. According to the World Bank, evidence shows that GDP growth generated in agriculture has large benefits for the poor, and is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth generated by other sectors. Particularly with investment and growth of sustainable value chains, agriculture can help to lift people out of poverty. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Nutrition and Food Secuirty

What Works for Nutrition? Success stories from Vietnam, Uganda & Kenya, Results, Concern Worldwide and University of Westminster

Beans and Other Paragons of Dietary Virtue, CIAT Blog

24 TED Talks That Will Help Save the Food System, FoodTank

Good Governance Is the Only Real Way to Provide Food Security, World Politics Review

Can the G7 new alliance reduce hunger and poverty in Malawi? Concern Universal, ChristianAid, CISANET & CEPA

In Kenya, Improving Food Security and HIV Outcomes through Farming, Scientific American

Climate change 

Warming set to breach 1C threshold, BBC News

Rapid, Climate-Informed Development Needed to Keep Climate Change from Pushing More than 100 Million People into Poverty by 2030, World Bank

UN climate fund releases $183m to tackle global warming, The Guardian

The devil is in the detail, E3G

Leadership on Climate Change: COP21 & Beyond, SustainAbility

Linking Food Security and Climate Change: what role for the private sector? ecdpm [Read more…]

10 priorities for making African smallholder farming work under climate change

By Katrin Glatzel

With just over two months left till a new international climate change agreement is being finalised in Paris, the Montpellier Panel is launching a new report today, “The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future”, which addresses some of the key challenges to climate-proof Africa’s smallholder farmers.

FoC cover pageAs we all know, two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century are the increasing demands for food, water and energy from a growing population and – climate change. Agriculture and smallholders are central to both, perhaps nowhere more so than in Africa. Africa is already battling against the impacts of climate change and smallholder farmers are amongst the most vulnerable with the least capacity to adapt. Rising temperatures signal more extreme weather events that will put lives and livelihoods at greater risk, increasing smallholders’ vulnerability to drought, famine and disease. And whilst progress has been made during the last two decades to reduce hunger and to improve farmers’ livelihoods, climate change jeopardises these gains.

High levels of poverty and underdevelopment combined with insufficient infrastructure exacerbate the already severe impacts of global warming on resources, development and human security. In order to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, international organisations and governments must help smallholders to reduce and off-set greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. [Read more…]

How much labour is done by women in African agriculture: telling fact from myth?

Image courtesy of [africa] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of [africa] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What if what we thought to be true about African agriculture was wrong? So often we turn to well used statistics and commonly-held beliefs when we describe the challenges African farmers face: low access to credit and inputs, high post-harvest losses and imperfect markets. We rely on conventional wisdom to characterise agriculture across the whole continent, in part to make up for the lack of sound evidence on which to base our characterisations.

Now a new project entitled “Agriculture in Africa– Telling Facts from Myths” aims to test the validity of common wisdom and update our understanding of farming in Africa. An update desperately needed due to our reliance on outdated knowledge and rapid socio-economic and physical changes happening in Africa. Initiated by the Chief Economist’s Office of the World Bank Africa Region, the project is a collaboration with the African Development Bank, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Cornell University, the Food and Agriculture Organization, London School of Economics, Maastricht School of Management, University of Pretoria, University of Rome Tor Vergata, University of Trento, and Yale University.

The commonly accepted wisdoms the project aims to challenge are:

  1. Use of modern inputs remains dismally low
  2. Land, labour and capital markets remain largely incomplete
  3. Land is abundant and land markets are poorly developed
  4. Access to credit is limited
  5. Labour productivity in agriculture is low
  6. Women perform the bulk of Africa’s agricultural tasks
  7. Agroforestry is gaining traction
  8. African agriculture is intensifying
  9. Seasonality continues to permeate rural livelihoods
  10. The majority of rural households are net food buyers
  11. Post harvest losses are large
  12. Droughts dominate Africa’s risk environment
  13. African farmers are increasingly diversifying their incomes
  14. The young are leaving agriculture
  15. Household enterprises operate mainly in survival mode
  16. Agricultural commercialisation improves nutritional outcomes

The project uses data collected under the Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) initiative. These surveys, on both agricultural and non-agricultural facets of people’s lives, have been conducted in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda from 2008 onwards and participants will be visited four times in total by 2020, and represent 40% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa. Although still in the early phase of the project, initial findings can be found here, for instance post harvest losses are being reported at levels less than figures reported by the FAO on which many publications rely.

Looking to number 6 in the list, one belief is that women contribute a higher share of the labour on farms than men in Africa. It is commonly cited that women’s labour contribution in African farming is between 60 to 80% but is this true? The 2010-2011 State of Food and Agriculture report from the FAO, the theme of which was women in agriculture, was a key publication in shedding light on this gender gap and reported that women make up around 50% of the agricultural labour force in Africa. A paper by Palacios-Lopez et al (2015) calculated that women contribute some 40% of agricultural labour hours to crop production, lower than commonly used estimates. [Read more…]

Smallholder farmers: Agents of Change in a Risky Climate

By Alice Marks

It can be difficult to avoid sounding hyperbolic when talking about climate change because the truth is that, if current farming practices and resource-heavy ways of life are not changed, the future does not look bright.

Every part of the food supply chain is likely to be affected by climate change. Crop yields will tumble and food quality, safety and delivery may be compromised. Water supplies in many areas will dwindle, while elsewhere flooding may cause water supplies to become contaminated and unsafe, destroy crops and threaten livestock. On top of this, certain pests and diseases may thrive in warmer temperatures.

Floods in Mozambique. Photo Credit: Naomi Watts/ World Food Programme

Floods in Mozambique. Photo Credit: Naomi Watts/ World Food Programme

In addition to farmers likely producing less, weather extremes may put extra stress onto already struggling infrastructure, making it increasingly difficult to get any surplus which farmers do produce to markets and consumers. By 2050, hunger and child malnutrition could increase by as much as 20%, and with agriculture as Africa’s biggest employer, the livelihoods of millions are at stake. So far, so risky. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Rising fossil fuel energy costs spell trouble for global food security, Oregon State University

Horizon 2020 – first projects funded involving African researchers, PAEPARD

Sustainable Agriculture Research Falling Further Behind, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

OECD – FAO expect stronger production, lower prices over coming decade, FAO

The President of the United States of America meets Sir David, Thinking Country

New Ethiopian ‘livestock master plan’ aims to take 14 million out of poverty, ILRI

Farmgate prices may stay low for 10 more years, says report, Farmers Weekly

Web-based policy tool on small-scale farmer innovation, PAEPARD

Producer Movements in Integrated Landscape Management, Landscapes for People, Food and Nature

Benchmarking the sustainability performance of the Brazilian non-GM and GM soybean meal chains: An indicator-based approach, Gaitán-Cremaschi et al, Food Policy [Read more…]