GFAR blog

Realising the potential of Africa’s hidden talent

Much of agriculture in Africa is in the hands of poor, scattered populations served by inadequate infrastructure for agricultural research, outreach and training. The national institutions serving agriculture often lack the capacity to undertake research and technology transfer on a meaningful scale. In addition, much work undertaken in Africa is lost as a rapid turnover of staff (a consequence of poor working conditions and facilities) destroys institutional memory. This is huge burden on an already poor continent.

Agriculture and agribusiness will play a central role in sustainable development and wealth creation for most countries in Africa. In 2010, agriculture and agribusiness in Sub-Saharan Africa represented a US$313 billion industry but this is a fraction of its potential. AgBiz, a South African business think tank, estimates the potential to be around US$1 trillion by 2030. Realising this potential can be jump started through the development of agro-industries that create jobs and broad-based income and welfare gains. Successful agribusiness investments in turn stimulate agricultural growth through the development of new markets and a vibrant input supply sector. The future economic growth in Africa will be from making smallholder farming commercial, supported by initiatives in communications, IT, transport and logistics, finance, distribution, health and education.

If these investments are to succeed, young people with new skills, together with enabling policies and infrastructure, will be essential to build globally competitive agro-food value chains. The absence of such skills is a critical constraint in Africa, where there is also an urgent need to modernize food systems to address the food security situation.

There is an enormous waste of Africa’s talent. Many (if not most) African children attend schools that are poorly resourced and where teaching is poor. The students that achieve university entrance qualification standards rarely come from such schools; a common problem in the developing world. Even the stronger economies in Africa rate poorly in terms of youth education; an OECD study in 2015 ranked South Africa as second from bottom of a group of mainly rich countries, with over a quarter of pupils who had attended school for six years unable to read.


Prof. Malcom BlackieRead the full post on the RUFORUM blog here

Blog post by: Malcolm Blackie 

Photo credit: Global Water Forum via Flickr 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

This post is the ninth issue in a series of articles released as part of the RUFORUM AGM Digests. Click here to access previous issues. You can get more details about the meeting at




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