Working Papers

Agricultural production and trade: the four corners of Africa

Agricultural production and trade: the four corners of Africa

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09 Nov 2017

Author(s): Ron Sandrey

Africa is a vast and diverse continent, but one that is strongly based upon its agricultural foundations. African agriculture encompasses many systems: from the subsistence practices in many countries to the modern corporate giants in even some of these same countries. Its products focus on domestic consumption but there is also a significant export sector, with these two extremes usually, but not invariably, associated with the two extremes of the production sectors. Its exports range from the cocoa bean and cotton exports from mostly west Africa to the fruit and wine products from the Western Cape in South Africa, to the coffee trees and tea bushes in east Africa and the citrus and olive plantations of north Africa.

This working paper examines the profiles and performance of African agricultural production since 1961 and export trade since 2001. To assist with this analysis, Africa is divided into four ‘corners’ or regions: the South, which roughly translates to the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the East, which encompasses the East African Community (EAC) with some subtractions and additions; the North, which is the lands north of the Sahara; and the West, which is largely the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with some additions.

The continent has come a long way in a little over half a century, a period of intensive tumult for African politics, and Africa’s engagement with the world as measured by its export profile has continued to grow. For both production and exports, this paper finds that Africa is a diverse continent, and regionally there are some major differences in each of the ‘corners’.

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