New ASTI report: Taking stock of national agricultural R&D capacity in Africa South of the Sahara


by Evgeniya Anisimova | December 11, 2014

High population growth, deteriorating soils, climate change, and volatile food prices are major factors affecting food security in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA). To respond effectively to these challenges, agricultural productivity in the region needs to be accelerated without delay. To succeed in generating the targeted research outputs needed to achieve this, the countries of SSA need sufficient, sustainable funding of strategic agricultural research programs in alignment with national and subregional priorities. They also need talented, well-trained researchers who work within an innovative yet efficient environment that motivates them.  A few countries are succeeding in this this regard, and many can be said to have increased their commitment and made valuable progress. Yet, many countries are still struggling with inadequate systems, funding, and human resource capacity.

New quantitative evidence presented in this report demonstrates that, although agricultural R&D spending and human resource capacity has grown considerably in the region since 2000, it was concentrated in only a few African countries. In 2012, just three countries—Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya—accounted for half the region’s agricultural R&D nvestments.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Low salary levels and poor conditions of service have led to high researcher turnover across Africa. In addition, a very large share of senior researchers are approaching retirement.
  • Female scientists remain grossly underrepresented in agricultural R&D, despite the fact that they are in a unique position to effectively address the pressing challenges facing African farmers, the majority of whom are female.
  • Donor dependency and funding volatility remain critical in many countries. The research agendas of countries with very high shares of donor funding can be skewed toward short-term goals that are not necessarily aligned with national or regional priorities.

African governments and research agencies are limited in their choice of options to address the many challenges they face in developing their agricultural research systems because of funding constraints. The report lists various successful policy changes already adopted in certain countries, which can offer valuable lessons for others.

Click on the picture to download the report:

ASTI africa report Nov 2014 2

About ASTI

Extensive empirical evidence demonstrates that agricultural research and development (R&D) investments have greatly contributed to economic growth, agricultural development, and poverty reduction in developing regions. Numerous regional and subregional initiatives emphasize the importance of agricultural R&D to achieving the productivity growth urgently needed to feed
expanding populations; reduce poverty levels; and address new challenges, such as those imposed by climate change. Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and operating within the portfolio of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, contributes to this agenda by collecting, analyzing, and publishing quantitative and qualitative information and trends on funding sources, spending levels and allocations, human resource capacities, and institutional developments in agricultural research in low- and middle-income countries. Working with a large network of country-level collaborators, ASTI conducts primary surveys to collect data from government, higher education, nonprofit, and private agricultural R&D agencies in around 80 developing countries worldwide.

About the Authors

Nienke Beintema is the program head of Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), which is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC.

Gert-Jan Stads is ASTI's senior program manager.

This publication was developed with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Canada Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development, and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM). 


Adapted from ASTI website

Featured image: Report cover


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