APRA respond to inquiry into UK and Sub-Saharan African cooperation

July update

The House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee’s report, The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: prosperity, peace and development co-operation, was published on 10 July. Access it here.

“We welcome the range of effective UK official development assistance (ODA) projects across the region. These include Aid for Trade—particularly in relation to the African Continental Free Trade Area—support for agriculture and health, and work to address the underlying causes of insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: prosperity, peace and development co-operation report

Input from APRA researchers cited in the report

  • “Ms Thorpe, Dr Ayele and Dr Naess…said that investment did not just relate to economic development but to food and nutrition security, diet-related health issues, incomes, jobs and livelihoods and the environment.”
  • “Some common ‘structural bottlenecks and barriers’ across the agricultural sector were access to finance—credit, remittances, savings and insurance— transport costs, inadequate returns for investment, high risks and a lack of increased demand to create the impetus for greater productivity.”
  • “Ms Thorpe, Dr Ayele and Dr Naess said that the ‘enabling conditions for investment’ were ‘insufficient, or … only slowly developing'”.

Key conclusions of the report include:

  • Agriculture remains the main source of jobs and growth potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a sector highly vulnerable to the impact of the climate crisis, thus magnifying the impact of environmental change on the economies of the region.
  • DfID’s support for the agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its recognition that this sector is critical to growth and job creation. They were told that an update to the DfID conceptual framework on agriculture would be helpful, to reflect the changes to the sector, and ask the Government to give this consideration.
  • Further technical assistance to support improvements in agricultural productivity should be a high priority for the UK’s development work.
  • In its post-Brexit trade policy, the UK should explore ways of giving better access to Africa’s agricultural exports and supporting the processing in Africa of a greater proportion of its agricultural products.

APRA’s initial response to the report

Academics at APRA and the Institute of Development Studies were invited to contribute to an inquiry led by House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations and Defence, based on research carried out through the APRA consortium.

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the inquiry on UK and Sub-Saharan Africa— prosperity, peace and development co-operation moved from oral to written evidence format for its inquiry.  

Researchers Jodie Thorpe, Dr Seife Ayele and Dr Lars Otto Naess were asked to provide evidence in order to address the following questions:

  1.             How important is agriculture to Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) economic development?
  2.             What can be done to support and improve the productivity of the agricultural sector in the region? What role should the private sector play?
  3.            Are there countries or regions in SSA which have successfully improved land use and agricultural productivity? What has worked and why?
  4.             What is your assessment of the level of priority afforded to agricultural programmes in SSA by the Department for International Development?
  5.            How will climate change affect the Sub-Saharan African agricultural sector?

Evidence was provided by drawing on relevant APRA policy briefs and working papers, as well as information from publications in scientific papers, from international organisations such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and data maintained by DFID.

Members of the committee were advised by APRA to bear in mind the heterogeneity of SSA, including different crop production and livestock keeping systems that prevail across the region, although with different intensities and scales, including smallholder family farmers and large commercial farmers.

The team emphasised the following points:

The importance of agriculture
  • Agriculture is an integral part and source of growth to the economies of SSA. Alongside contributing to gross national product (GDP), it is a significant source of jobs and livelihoods.
Measures to improve productivity
  • Raising productivity will require a number of factors to be addressed, such as improved inputs (e.g. seeds), greater access to mechanisation, and better access to more appropriate agronomic techniques and technologies, supported by extension services.
  • In parallel, other structural bottlenecks and barriers need to be addressed. These include poor access to financial services, and a lack of infrastructure and high transaction costs which undermine returns to investment in productivity enhancing measures.
The role of the private sector
  • Innovations in value chain coordination, such as contract farming or joint ventures with producer organisations, which can enable input and credit provision, support post-harvest activities, and enable market access. 
  • Access to financial services, in particular addressing the finance gap between what farmers in SSA need, and what is currently offered by commercial providers
  • Medium-scale farms and domestic or regional food crops as an alternative route for smallholder commercialisation than linkages with large firms producing crops for export.
The impact of climate change
  • The impacts of climate change on agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa are expected to be severe including rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns undermining cereal crop productivity.
  • Climate change-driven impacts often act as a threat multiplier, compounding other drivers of poverty and food insecurity.
  • The need for measures to promote flexibility, robustness and resilience in the face of a range of possible future climates, rather than planning for specific climate change scenarios.

Other topics that were expanded on and highlighted by the team include: 

  • The level of priority set by Department for International Development (DFID)towards agricultural programmes in SSA;
  • Agriculture and employment of young people in SSA;
  • Building an enabling environment for agriculture in Africa.

For full details of the written evidence submitted by APRA to the committee, click here.

Cover photo: Example of a House of Lords committee. Credit: House of Lords on Flickr.