Why isn’t Nigeria researching the impact of its protectionist policies for everyday foods?

For example, there can be little doubt about the importance of rice, chicken and tomatoes (and tomato paste) in the everyday diets of both urban and rural Nigerians. In protecting domestic producers of those commodities through import bans and tariffs, the country’s policy makers have actively bucked the trend toward more liberalised agricultural markets.

But who have been the winners and losers from these protectionist policies? What interests, actors and coalitions have supported or resisted them? What effects have they had on the agricultural sector, rural incomes, food security, rural and urban nutrition and health? How does Nigeria’s experience compare to Ghana’s, where there are fewer restrictions on imports of chicken meat, rice and tomato paste?

These are not inconsequential questions, and yet when the Web of Science is used to search for peer reviewed work on the political economy or politics of policy relating to these three commodities, it yields next to nothing. How can this be so, and what does it say about the now popular discourse promoting evidence-based policy? What is hindering Nigeria’s abundant academic talent from contributing to – or indeed leading – the now re-dynamised debates about agriculture and food policy in Africa?

If knowledge is to be a critical element of Nigeria’s emergence as an African and global economic power, then understanding and addressing the constraints to high quality research on the politics of public policy – in agriculture and beyond – must now be given the highest priority.

Image: IITA on Flickr