Africa is rich in both natural and human resources, yet nearly 200 million of its people are undernourished because of inadequate food supplies. Comprehensive strategies are needed across the continent to harness the power of science and technology (S&T) in ways that boost agricultural productivity, profitability, and sustainability -- ultimately ensuring that all Africans have access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs. This report addresses the question of how science and technology can be mobilized to make that promise a reality.
Pleading for more agricultural R&D investment is difficult when the impact evidence of such investments in the recent past seems to suggest that it has been relatively weaker in Africa than elsewhere. Therefore, additional investments in agricultural research in Africa are bounded by the expectation that its impact score will improve substantially. Enhancing the impact of agricultural science and technology is a precondition for mobilizing additional investments in agricultural science and technology in Africa.
There are two processes in particular that, when improved, could help to enhance the impact score of agricultural research, namely (a) priority setting, and (b) monitoring and evaluation. There is broad agreement in the literature that these are crucial processes in the overall governance of agricultural research. Substantial investments have been made during the past 10-20 years to improve priority setting and monitoring and evaluation in African national agricultural research systems, but unfortunately not always very successfully. There is a perpetual effort to improve these processes and adapt them to changing circumstances. As elsewhere, greater stakeholder participation in both processes is seen as an important way forward to enhance the impact of agricultural research. This change in governance of agricultural research is part of a broader development of decentralization and democratization of government that currently is being advocated in quite a number of African countries.
As a complement to increased support for agricultural research and development, institutions and scientists will have to become more accountable to society. There must be clear and measurable indicators of success or failure in the strategies and programs that are formulated and funded. These should be used as milestones in an enhanced monitoring and impact evaluation culture. Such indicators need to apply at the level of the institution, but also of the program, department, project and scientist levels. To be effective in building impact-oriented institutions, effective incentive and reward systems need to be introduced that align organizational with individual performance.