Despite a decade of strong agricultural growth and development, Africa continues to face serious challenges in terms of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. That is why the African Union (AU) has declared 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security. As such, the AU has called on all member states to strengthen their policy environment in a bid to help spur investment in agriculture and implement mechanisms to track and measure progress through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
Investment in agricultural research and development has undoubtedly played a critical role in recent agricultural growth in Africa. IFPRI’s 2013 Global Food Policy Report, released earlier this month, highlighted the region’s trends in agricultural R&D investments and human resource capacity in a chapter based on a recent data analysis by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) program. The chapter’s key findings were also presented at the 10th CAADP Partnership Platform meeting in Durban, South Africa on 19 March:
African agricultural research spending increased by 40 percent during 2000–2011, which was largely driven by increased spending in just two countries: Nigeria and Uganda.
- Investment levels in most other countries are still well below the levels required to sustain agricultural R&D needs. In 2011, only 10 African countries met the NEPAD/UN target of spending 1% of agricultural output on agricultural research.
- Donors and development banks remain an important funding source for African agricultural R&D, but are also main drivers of funding volatility.
- Despite rapid growth in the total number of agricultural researchers in the region, many countries continue to face serious capacity constraints, which has been accelerated by the aging of more qualified researchers.
- This highlights the urgent need to recruit and train the next generation of agricultural scientists.
There are many encouraging signs that African agricultural research is moving in the right direction, not in the least thanks to an increasing number of recent (sub-) regional initiatives. Nonetheless, much more is needed to tackle the remaining challenges, which the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa is set to address. The Science Agenda is based on the belief that African agriculture is too important to be outsourced to international investors and that every country requires a basic science capacity as an essential part of an agriculture-led social and economic transformation.
ASTI indicators provide a useful benchmark of the current status of agricultural R&D investment and capacity in Africa and for monitoring future progress of the Science Agenda, which is currently under final review for the adoption by AU Heads of Government in July 2014. The continuous monitoring of agricultural R&D investment and capacity in Africa is an effective tool to hold governments accountable for implementing the necessary policy changes and funding allocations needed to meet the objectives of the Science Agenda. Indicators play a key role in driving future change.
Forthcoming ASTI outputs for Africa over the next few months include a series of country factsheets, a regional report, datasets, and a revamped ASTI website.