Chapter 4.1

Food and agriculture

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Where are we now? Where do we want to go?

Africa could feed itself. But instead, it is spending an annual 35 billion US dollars on food imports (AfDB, 2016). More than 232 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (UN/WFP, 2016), almost one in four, are still suffering from hunger.

Africa is still the only continent where the absolute number of chronically malnourished children is rising. They are at risk of becoming a "lost generation". Investing in food programmes, particularly for pregnant women, mothers and small children, is the most important investment in the future.

The main cause of hunger is poverty. And poverty has a predominantly rural face. Investment in agriculture has been a neglected topic for far too long. Precious foreign currency has to be spent unnecessarily on meeting people's basic needs. The agricultural sector, which employs some 70 per cent of the entire economically active population, accounts for just 30 per cent of added value.

The map shows the percentage of people in each country who are undernourished (2014-2016).
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The map shows the percentage of people in each country who are undernourished (2014-2016).

The productivity of African agriculture can in fact be increased dramatically simply by providing better education, training and advice and easy access to agricultural research findings.

There is a need for:

  • technical innovation (e.g. better seeds, animal hygiene, storage and processing technology),
  • organisational innovations (e.g. strengthening producer groups and farmers’ organisations) and
  • systemic innovations (e.g. establishing business models, marketing and sales structures).

More than 315 million smallholders also need:

  • easy access to agricultural financial services (e.g. to loans for agricultural inputs and to insurance),
  • infrastructure expansion; it must be ensured that Africa’s rural areas are connected to its growing cities since this is necessary to expand intra-African trade and
  • a reform of land rights; this is of key importance for the future of small farmers and also essential for ensuring fair participation in growing added value.

It is the rural areas that will determine Africa's future. These areas must not lose out to globalisation. Progress in individual countries must not be undermined by unchecked and uncontrolled market forces or by distortions to the market through agricultural subsidies. Financial investments in agricultural markets should be made transparent and subject to regulation. Speculation in times of looming global food price crises must be banned.

At the same time, African countries need to take advantage of the trade policy options available to them to protect their markets and develop a competitive agricultural and food sector. Dependencies must be reduced, independence must be strengthened. Agreeing on tariff- and quota-free market access for all least developed countries is one way to support this process.

Globalisation means all our lives impact on others’ lives. The way agricultural products are produced and consumed significantly influences the ecological and social conditions in Africa. Most cocoa farmers still live below the poverty line. Their earnings amount to merely 6 per cent of the cocoa price. Moreover, it is scandalous that children are still employed in the production of cocoa.

Therefore, we urgently need to find new ways to develop agricultural value chains that are sustainable and to improve the working and living conditions of the local population. Multi-stakeholder forums such as the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa are an important first step.

Our consumption habits, too, must change. Information and education play a pivotal role in achieving this. We need credible environmental and social labels so that ethical and environmentally sound supply chains can be recognised immediately by everyone.

The goal is an Africa with "modern agriculture for increased production, productivity and value addition (that) contributes to farmer and national prosperity and Africa’s collective food security". (Agenda 2063)

What needs to happen?


  • Launch targeted programmes to improve food security, especially for pregnant women, mothers and children
  • Use at least 10 per cent of public spending for innovation-oriented agriculture
  • Improve access to advisory services and training, means of production and capital
  • Establish well-functioning systems of agricultural financing
  • Strengthen intra-African agricultural trade by improving infrastructure and dismantling trade barriers
  • Implement a sustainable agricultural policy and, particularly for women, establish secure land rights
  • Use the options available to protect African markets so as to allow Africa's own agricultural sector to develop


  • Expand the programmes being implemented under our ONEWORLD – No Hunger Initiative, including Green Innovation Centres, and enhance their structural impact in African countries
  • Further strengthen development cooperation programmes aimed at developing rural areas
  • Intensify public research in the field of agriculture and breeding and give small family farms better access to high-quality seeds
  • Modernise agriculture in Africa by applying adapted technologies for smallholders
  • Further promote the establishment of sustainable agricultural supply chains by
    - setting up multi-stakeholder forums (example: Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa)
    - promoting credible environmental and social labels in the agricultural sector
    - supporting partner countries in meeting quality standards


  • Afford Africa better access to EU markets and enable African countries to use protection mechanisms to develop their own agricultural sector
  • Abolish all trade-distorting agricultural subsidies at WTO level
  • Strengthen international investment programmes such as the Global Agriculture Food Security Programme (GAFSP) and programmes to fight malnutrition
  • Promote youth employment in rural areas and agricultural innovations through greater commitment by the G20
  • Protect the African fisheries sector by concluding fair fisheries agreements and taking more resolute action to combat illegal fishing
  • Call for better cooperation between international organisations for food and agriculture (especially FAO, IFAD, WFP, World Bank, CGIAR)

continue to Chapter 4.2

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