Agricultural R&D in Africa: Investment, human capacity and policy constraints

Gert-Jan Stads and Nienke Beintema  
OECD Conference Proceedings  


"In the face of volatile and rising food prices, rapid population growth, and climate change, governments are increasingly recognising the value of greater investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) as an essential element to increase agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Based on data collected from 370 R&D agencies in 32 countries, the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (AST) initiative found that after a decade of stagnation during the 1990s, investments and human resource capacity in public agricultural R&D in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by more than 20% during 2001–08. Most of this growth, however, occurred in only a handful of countries and was largely the result of increased government commitments to boost low salary levels and to rehabilitate infrastructure, rather than actual research programmes. Many other countries — particularly those in francophone West Africa — reported stagnating or falling investment and capacity levels and these countries continue to face fundamental challenges, including rapidly aging pools of scientists, a high dependency on donor and development bank funding, and very large fluctuations in funding from one year to the next.

Notwithstanding the challenges facing many countries, renewed commitment to agriculture by governments and donors indicates improved prospects for agricultural R&D for a number of African countries. But this political support must be translated into a set of specific directives by governments, donors, and other stakeholders if the many challenges facing agricultural R&D systems are to be addressed. Among the areas to be addressed are: 1) counteracting decades of underinvestment in agricultural R&D; 2) halting excessive volatility in yearly investment levels; 3) addressing existing and imminent challenges in human resource capacity; and 4) maximising regional and subregional co-operation in agricultural R&D."


Publication date: 
6 Avr, 2012