Agriculture is the mainstay of nearly two-thirds of Africans. In addition to being an important source of individual and household incomes, it also constitutes the bedrock of most national economies. Agricultural production and the domestic trade in agricultural products are central to the functioning of local markets, the fight against poverty, the provision of employment, and the quest for greater national food security. New evidence in 2018 year’s SOFI (State of Food Insecurity) report highlights that beside conflicts, climate variability and extremes are also a key force behind the recent rise in global hunger. They are also one of the leading causes of severe food crises.
African agricultural exports enjoy a dominant position in the international trade relations of the continent, including formal and informal intra-African cross-border exchanges. Furthermore, the agricultural sector serves as a key source of raw materials for the production of a variety of semi- and fully-processed commodities. Services connected to the promotion of agricultural production and productivity also occupy a significant position in most African economies. In sum, agriculture continues to offer one of the best opportunities for promoting overall economic development in Africa, including contribution to the growth of other sectors and expansion of the industrial sector.
Building and renewing a critical mass of domestic capacity for the design and implementation of sound agricultural policy in rapidly changing contexts is, therefore, absolutely necessary for the acceleration of Africa’s development. This is all the more so as the African continent remains an important and growing target for the export of subsidised agricultural commodities, including food products, that threaten to displace local producers from national and regional markets, and which carry implications for national and regional food security. At the same time, many new producers have emerged in the world market that compete vigorously with African cash crop exports, eroding the continent’s share of the global trade in a number of important primary commodities.
Consumer and producer demands are changing, and the market segmentation is increasing, due to globalization and territorialisation mindsets (national and local level) in the agribusiness value chains. The agricultural markets are quickly becoming globalized, and this phenomenon creates new consumption models and new production and distribution systems. The value chains, often controlled by multinational or national companies and supermarkets, seized of a growing share of the agribusiness systems in developing regions. They can provide opportunities for quality employment both for men and women, and yet they can also be a mean for transferring the costs and risks to the weakest links, particularly women.