The expansion of public–private partnerships to develop innovation and research networks, which are critical to the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector, should be considered more deeply.
With Africa’s population explosion, and the ever-pressing need to accelerate food production, more research is needed to improve agricultural outputs.
Research outcomes have been shown to have a significant impact on growth and development, said Agriculture Research Council (ARC) president and CEO Dr Shadrack Moephuli, citing the results of several case studies on the impact of technology innovation on agriculture productivity and trade.
Speaking at the Agribusiness Africa conference, held in Kempton Park, on Tuesday, he said sustained investment to enhance productivity and efficiencies has a significant impact on economic growth and poverty reduction.
One study revealed that every R1 spent on agricultural dry bean breeding research returned R5.67, while a study of vaccines and its impact on Rift Valley fever and lumpy skin disease showed that vaccines had significant cost benefits with reduced infection.
In addition, there is value in investing in biocontrol research and development.
A review of the various studies also indicates that research and development funding in most African countries is predominantly dependent on investment from donor partners, which can often be volatile and is not conducive to sustained research.
This meant that some African countries are not funding their own agricultural research.
The opposite seemed to be true for South Africa, which boasted the most advanced national system of innovation with sustained funding for agricultural research.
Moephuli also added that other lessons were learnt from these studies: there remained a need to be inclusive for transformation and that broad-based productivity gains were essential for inclusive rural and structural transformation.
These are particularly applicable as the continent moves to implement the Africa Agenda 2063, which has a strong developmental thrust that leverages agriculture as an instrument for sustainable growth, on a continent where poverty persists and its food system is rapidly changing.
Over the past decade, Africa has experienced rapid population growth and increased urbanisation.
Africa’s middle class has exploded from 495-million in 1990 to 822-million in 2010 as incomes rise, while the number of cities housing more than one-million people has expanded from just two in 1950 to more than 50 in 2010. This is expected to double to more than 100 by 2030.