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.
Globalization is increasing the competition that Africa's farmers face from cheap, often subsidized food imports. Trade-distorting policies by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries are particularly harmful to African agriculture because of agricultural subsidies (mostly the European Union and the United States), limited market access (European Union, Japan and the United States) and export subsidies (mostly the European Union). Countervailing responses by African governments will not be in the best interests of the poor and food insecure. National, regional, continental and international markets should be competitive, free and fair for African farmers and consumers. Export markets for Africa's traditional export crops are also being challenged by new suppliers from Asia and Latin America, and rich importing countries are becoming choosier about product quality and standards. New export opportunities are emerging for nontraditional export crops, livestock production and processed foods, but mostly for producers who are well connected to markets and who can meet quality standards. However there is potential for Africa to benefit from globalization and trade liberalization; this is outlined in Box 7.1. To capitalize on this potential requires regional, national and local markets to be linked more explicitly than they are currently.
In order to enhance competitiveness, new technology options are needed that reduce unit costs of production, improve product quality and add value. This would be essential to market-led productivity change as described in Chapters 4 and 5, and holds true for on-farm production, post-harvest storage and treatment, agro-processing, marketing and transport. Post-harvest losses in Africa are high, and there is good scope to reduce these through improved roads and markets, together with active encouragement of private sector investment in research and development at the lower end of the production-to-market chain. Creative partnerships between the public and private sectors, such as the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, can also open up new and innovative institutional and technological opportunities.