Globalisation, structural adjustment and African agriculture

Analysis and Evidence

Background paper to the ERD2009


Deborah BRYCESON – University of Glasgow
Shailaja FENNELL – University of Cambridge
Prabirjit SARKAR – Jadavpur University and University of Cambridge
Ajit SINGH – University of Cambridge


Paper prepared for the Workshop on “Food crisis and the development potential of the agricultural sector in fragile countries”, organised by the European Report of Development in Cambridge, United Kingdom, 17-18 March 2009.


A major purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of poor governance or “state fragility” in African countries on their overall economic and agrarian performance. The results of our econometric analysis show that a higher level of public security conducive to lower levels of conflicts of an ethnic, religious, and regional nature, correspond with greater agricultural value-added per capita. This analysis also indicates that trade openness and aid do not have a substantial impact on agricultural development.
Our further institutional and historical analysis of the structural adjustment programmes in African countries suggests that African agriculture’s poor performance is not necessarily due to the negative influence of African governments, but should also, in large part, be attributed to the policies advocated by the international financial institutions and donor countries. The resolution of these problems lies in improving the ability of African farmers to benefit from new agrarian technologies that raise staple food productivity and thereby enhance food security and national stability.
The paper also provides inter alia a nuanced analytical description of the short- and long-term performance of African economies and their agricultural sectors during the last 25 years, based upon available aggregate statistics.

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