The Future Agricultures Consortium is addressing the question of how the ‘rising powers’, including the BRICS countries, are changing agricultural development in Africa. Our research project China and Brazil in African Agriculture aims to document and critically analyse the experiences of Brazil and China cooperation programmes in African agriculture, understand the novelty and value added of their approaches and discuss implications for the cooperation landscape and for the future of agricultural development.
The rising powers in the global economy, such as the BRICS countries, are becoming prominent players in international development. They are growing sources of development finance and offer developing countries a combination of private investment, lending, trade and cooperation arrangements that is gradually challenging the rules of the game of the global aid architecture.
The rising powers emphasise the newness and distinctiveness of their development cooperation exchanges, which they claim to be based on principles of horizontality, no interference and mutual benefit. Beyond the political rhetoric, however, it is far from clear whether a new paradigm is emerging, and if so what it comprises. Nevertheless, the shifts in geopolitical and economic power associated with the rise of the BRICS, the paradigm shifts in their domestic development processes, the associated shifts in discourses on the nature of international development and the specific implications for the aid landscape are significant and deserve attention.
Africa is a major destination of the rising power’s diplomatic and economic ventures, and agriculture a leading topic for development cooperation activities across the continent. African agriculture is a domain of great political and symbolic value, given the high proportion of Africa’s population that depend directly on it. It has been a major site for external development intervention over the years and one prone to controversy on the appropriate recipes for addressing the unrelenting challenges facing African farming and food systems. Today, an African agricultural ministry may be receiving support and advice from multiple sources, underpinned by different visions of what agriculture is and what is should be for. As much of the continent struggles to respond to persistent food insecurity and climate adversity, the question of whether the rising powers may change the course of African agricultural development emerges as both critical and timely.
The Future Agricultures Consortium has started addressing these questions. A new research project proposes to document and critically analyse the experiences of Brazil and China cooperation programmes in African agriculture, understand the novelty and value added of their approaches and discuss implications for the cooperation landscape and for the future of agricultural development. This project begins with a scoping study examining these issues from the side of the rising powers, with subsequent work aiming to investigate experiences and perspectives in a number of African countries.
Some of the questions our research will seek to answer are:
- What investments are Brazil and China making in agricultural production systems in Africa? What is their scale, nature (public and private) and focus?
- What visions and models of development underpin Brazil and China cooperation programmes in agriculture? What are their explicit and implicit rationales? How are they being articulated, by whom and to what purpose?
- How do Brazil and China’s visions and models compare with one another and with traditional donors approaches to development?
- Is there evidence of emerging new paradigms for development cooperation and for agricultural development?
- What implications for traditional donors and for pro-poor development in Africa?