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Agriculture and structural transformation in Africa

Agriculture and structural transformation in Africa
Photo credit: CARE

30 Nov 2015

Close to 70% of Africans depend on agriculture for their incomes, yet the sector represents only a third of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). Efforts to improve farmer productivity and raise incomes can, therefore, drive demand in other important economic sectors. This would increase economic growth while providing the opportunity to simultaneously pull millions of people out of the vicious circle of poverty.

Despite the importance of the agricultural sector in the continent, it is not getting the requisite attention from policy makers and private sector actors. This is manifested by the non-inclusive growth in most African countries leading to poverty in the rural areas where a majority of the population lives. Numerous African countries could realize more potential from their agricultural sectors, yet in recent decades countries have given vastly different levels of prioritization to investments and policy reforms.

“The agricultural sector is important to us because it is a key ingredient for inclusion in development of sub-Saharan Africa. And it is significant to note that agricultural productivity gains offer a powerful lever for raising productivity of African workers, generating youth employment and women empowerment; alleviating rural poverty and driving structural transformation in Africa. Thus, structural transformation in this sector, that would lead to improvement of productivity in smallholder farms, as well as, creating opportunities elsewhere in the economy, whether in agriculture or non-agriculture is a welcome business,” says Prof. Lemma W. Senbet, AERC Executive Director.

It is in this context, Agriculture and Structural Transformation in Africa is the theme for the 43rd plenary session of the African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) Biannual Research Workshop, which opens at 9:00 am on Sunday, November 29, 2015 at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Opening remarks will be by Prof. Lemma W. Senbet, AERC Executive Director, Anthony Maruping, Commissioner, Economic Affairs, African Union and Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The session will feature three presentations by thought leaders on the subject.

Professor Christopher Barrett, Cornell University, USA and his co-authors will start off the proceedings with a look at ‘The Structural Transformation of Rural Africa: On the Current State of African Food Systems and Rural Non-Farm Economics’. The next paper will be on ‘An African Green Revolution: Past Failures and Future Prospects’ by Prof. Keijiro Otsuka, The National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Japan. The third and final paper, ‘Pathways Less Explored – The Nature and Significance of Aspirations in Agricultural Transformation’ will be by Dr. Alemayehu S. Taffesse, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Ethiopia.

Discussions on these papers will be led by Prof. Yaw Nyarko, New York University, USA, Dr. Adam Elhiraika, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Prof. Rodney Smith, University of Minnesota, USA. Thereafter, active discussions by the participants made up of senior African policy makers, distinguished economists from all over the world, development partners and researchers from Africa and beyond will take place.

A public/private sector policy panel discussion is also scheduled later to wind up the activities for the day. This session will be chaired by Dr. Admessu Tadesse, President of PTA Bank. The round table panelists include Prof. Mthuli Ncube, Oxford University and former Chief Economist of AfDB, Gabriel Negatu, AfDB, Linda Kwamboka, Mfarm Limited, Kenya, Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO, Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, and Prof. Yaw Nyarko, New York University. The objective of the public/private sector panel discussion is to contribute to finding solutions to the agricultural challenges in Africa, by focusing on the practical opportunities and challenges. This way, the panel discussion complements the preceding plenary presentations.

Concurrent sessions of the workshop start on Monday, November 30, 2015. They will feature 85 presentations of research proposals, work in progress, final reports and PhD theses proposals. These will cover a wide range of topics that fit into the focal areas of AERC’s thematic research programme: poverty, labour markets and income distribution; macroeconomic policy and growth; finance and resource mobilization; production, trade and economic integration; agriculture, climate change and natural resource management.

Moreover, following the tradition, special sessions will be conducted on various topics by AERC partners namely UNECA, AUC and AfDB:  

  • “Economic Report on Africa 2015: Industrializing through Trade” will be presented by Dr. Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomic Policy Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on November 30, 2015.

  • “African Agenda 2063 and African Union (AU) Commission’s Response to the Data Revolution” will be presented on December 1, 2015.

  • African Development Report 2015, will be presented by AfDB on December 2, 2015.

High-level conference

The AERC, in partnership with Cornell University, AfDB, Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), and the World Bank, will host a high-level conference on the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS), on December 4-5, 2015.

The AERC will also play host to one back-to-back workshop during this period at the same venue:

  • The AERC/GDNet Policy Communications Workshop will be held on December 4-6, 2015. About 20 participants are expected to take part. The objective of this workshop is to build capacity and skills in communicating research to maximize their uptake and impact as well as increase understanding of research to policy process and the role of policy briefs in this process. The researchers will also be trained on how to produce a Policy Brief for each research project to be finalized after the workshop.

Each of the AERC’s biannual research workshops attracts about 200 researchers, academics, policy makers and other economists who participate in the Research Programme. The workshops provide a forum in which the participants can meet each other within a worldwide network of professionals, and deal with issues relevant to Africa’s economic development. They also provide an opportunity for monitoring the progress and quality of the various research projects sponsored by AERC, thereby fulfilling one of its major mandates – to strengthen local capacity for conducting independent, rigorous inquiry into problems facing the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa.


About AERC

The AERC, established in 1988, is a premier capacity building institution in the advancement of research and training to inform economic policies in sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the most active Research and Capacity Building Institutions (RCBIs) in the world, with a focus on Africa. AERC’s mission rests on two premises: First, that development is more likely to occur where there is sustained sound management of the economy. Second, that such management is more likely to happen where there is an active, well-informed cadre of locally-based professional economists to conduct policy-relevant research. AERC builds that cadre through a programme that has three primary components: research, training and policy outreach. The organization has now emerged as a premier capacity building network institution integrating high quality economic policy research, postgraduate training and policy outreach within a vast network of researchers, universities and policy makers across Africa and beyond. AERC has increasingly received global acclaim for its quality products and services, and is ranked highly among global development think tanks.

Source AERC
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Date 30 Nov 2015
 
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