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Workshops on Structural Transformation in Africa

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The third Workshop on Structural Transformation in Africa will be held in Nairobi Kenya in June 1999. The aim of the workshop is to strengthen the links between African scientists, policy makers, and private sector representatives in the design of effective policies to foster agricultural transformation.

The workshop is jointly sponsored by Egerton University/Tegemeo Institute for Agricultural Development and Policy, ECAPAPA, and the Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University, and funded by USAID (AFR/SD). The sponsors will commission several empirical analyses by African scientists about the major forces shaping the trends in agricultural productivity and transformation in various countries on the continent. These papers will serve as background documents for the workshop. Key input will also be sought from African private sector representative. The papers and debate by the workshop participants will help develop better guidelines for both African governments and donors about how to make reform programs more effective in fostering broad-based economic growth and food security.

The seminar will follow up two earlier workshop on agricultural transformation, the first held in Harare in June, 1993 and the second in Abidjan in September 1995. The 1999 workshop will build upon progress made from previous workshops and foster discussion of new empirical findings and their implications for agricultural transformation on the continent.

The seminar will bring together approximately 35 African analysts, senior policy makers, private sector participants (including from farmer organizations), along with several participants from outside the continent (the Harare and Abidjan workshops were also limited to 35 participants.) The participants will meet for three days. The seminar will be structured around three sets of issues:

  1. Discussion of major forces affecting the pace and extent of agricultural transformation in various regions;
  2. Empirical case studies of the impact of structural adjustment programs on agricultural intensification and agricultural transformation in selected countries in Africa.
  3. Identification of strategies to strengthen the links between African researchers, policy makers and private sector groups in the design of policies and programs to promote agricultural productivity and transformation.

The first set of cross-cutting issues will be outlined in a conceptual and empirically-based paper to be developed by the workshop organizers and circulated to workshop participants in advance. Among the issues to be addressed are the nature of the agricultural transformation process and empirical questions that need to be addressed in analyzing the impact of structural adjustment programs on the transformation process. The case studies by the African analysts of the impact of economic policy reforms on agricultural productivity and agricultural transformation in selected countries will be based on new empirical analyses. Terms of reference for these papers will be developed by the workshop organizers.

A key challenge will be to identify authors and other workshop participants who have the time to deliver quality analyses yet are sufficiently established and respected by policy makers. The workshop will include senior analysts, private sector participants (including farmer representative) as well as representatives with finance- as well as agriculture-related portfolios in government. The conclusions generated from the workshop will be channeled into future policy discussions by ECAPAPA and Tegemeo in efforts to promote African capacity building and policy analysis.


The workshop's objectives are to:

Identify strategic policies and investments needed to transform agriculture and the food system to stimulate broad-based economic growth.

Focus on who should do what--identify appropriate roles for, and relationships among, public and private sectors; other elements of civil society, such as farmer and trader associations; national and local governments; regional organizations; donors; and private voluntary and non-governmental organizations.

Identify an analytic agenda--areas where research would have a high payoff in terms of providing key information needed to design successful transformation strategies.

Lay the groundwork for follow-up actions to implement the workshop's recommendations.


The aim is to produce a set of high-quality written analyses useful in defining and refining national, regional, and donor policies to foster agricultural transformation in Africa. Furthermore, by involving selected policy makers in the seminar, links between policy researchers, private entrepreneurs, and policy makers will be reinforced.

There will be two major written outputs from the workshop:

A 8-12 page synthesis of the major points, written by an editorial committee, based on rapporteurs' reports for the various sessions. This synthesis will be aimed at policy makers.

A set of commissioned papers, plus introduction and synthesis of the debates, posted on major Web sites (with capacity for downloading) to facilitate broad access. An internet discussion site is also being considered to facilitate dialogue on the issues raised by the papers. Selected contributions will be included in a forthcoming book on Agricultural Transformation Challenges in Africa to be published by Nova Science.

The editorial committee will give top priority to getting the short synthesis out to policy makers within two months of the workshop.

Organizational Issues

The initial organizing committee is:

  • Dr. Wilson Nguyo, Director

    Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development
    Egerton University Kindaruma Lane/Ngong Road
    P.O. Box 20498 Nairobi, Kenya T
    el: 254-2-717-818 Fax: 254-2-717-819
  • Dr. Isaac Minde, Regional Programme Coordinator

    ECAPAPA (Eastern and Central Africa Programme for Agricultural Policy Analysis)
    P.O. Box 765
    Entebbe, Uganda
    Tel: 256-41-321-314
    Fax: 256-42-21126
  • Dr.T.S. Jayne

    Department of Agricultural Economics
    202 Agriculture Hall
    Michigan State University
    East Lansing, MI 48824-1039
    Tel. (517) 355-0131
    Fax: (517) 432-1800

Members of the organizing committee will also serve, along with one or two others, as the editorial committee, charged with writing the policy syntheses and putting together the workshop proceedings.

Facilities and Timing

The Workshop on Structural Transformation will be held in Nairobi, Kenya in June, 1999. Information on exact dates and the 3-day workshop agenda will be forthcoming soon.

Participants and Papers

The workshop is aimed to ensure a good mixture of:

  1. Policy analysts and policy makers (including financial and agricultural ministries);
  2. Private sector entrepreneurs involved in agriculture;
  3. Francophone and Anglophone experience.

A challenge will be to limit the workshop to no more than about 35 participants in order to make it truly a workshop that facilitate dialogue rather than a large conference. Furthermore, the workshop will be designed to emphasize African perspectives on the evolving issues facing African agriculture, and to provide a unique forum for candid discussion between researchers, policy makers, and private sector representatives.

Previous Workshop Conclusions and Recommendations

During the 1980s and 1990s, most African countries adopted structural adjustment programs in an effort to stabilize their economies and lay the foundations for long-term economic growth. Advocates of the reforms see clear, positive effects on African agriculture and the broader economy. Many African analysts remain skeptical, doubting the macro-economic numbers that underlie these evaluations. These analysts also often express concern that the reforms, although leading to short-term improvements in macro-economic aggregates, are not inducing the long-term investments needed to foster sustainable productivity growth and widespread food security. The workshop fostered a structured debate among Africans on these issues.

The workshop participants identified several elements, discussed in more detail below, that need to be incorporated into future strategies to foster agricultural transformation in Africa:

  1. Strategies need to focus on transforming the entire food system, not just farming. This will require increased attention to coordination of finance, input distribution, output market reliability, agro-processing, and consumer preferences in the design of policies to promote agricultural transformation, especially in light of the rapid growth of global "life-science" companies worldwide.
  2. Technologies and policies should be specific to each agro-ecological zone.
  3. Good governance, decentralization, and farmer empowerment are essential for agricultural transformation.
  4. Agricultural transformation requires improving domestic capital and risk markets, particularly linking these markets more effectively to international markets. The workshop participants discussed several innovative approaches that have been used by some African countries to attract foreign investors through joint ventures and contract farming.
  5. Regional integration, rather than national food self-sufficiency, is the best way to assure broad-based growth and food security. The focus should be how to raise farmer incomes rather than national food self-sufficiency.
  6. Agricultural transformation requires greater coordination across Ministries. Agricultural transformation depends not only on decisions by the Ministry of Agriculture. Transportation, trade, and macro-economic policies often have more effect on farmer and trader incentives than do agricultural sectoral policy.

Analytic Agenda for 1999: What Do We Still Need to Know?

Based on participants' conclusions from previous workshop, several critical areas have been identified where more information is needed to design effective agricultural transformation strategies. These issues are incorporated into the focus of papers to be prepared and discussed by participants for the 1999 Nairobi workshop:

1. What are the best ways to foster and support producer and village organizations as tools for mobilizing local participation and resources in making policies, carrying out investments, and increasing accountability of governments, firms, and other development organizations? Most agree that greater local participation and empowerment are needed. The challenge is to find the best ways to support them.

2. What strategy should be used to allocate public investment between "high-potential" areas and more marginal zones, if the goal is to foster broad-based development? Many of the poor live in areas where very heavy investments are needed to increase agricultural productivity. How much public investment should be made in these areas versus more environmentally favored zones?

3. What institutional innovations will allow appropriate public and collective action to strengthen agricultural production and marketing, given the very tight budget constraints facing most African states? For private markets to work well, some collective action is needed. The challenge is to identify what needs to be done collectively, who should provide different types of services (national government? local government? business associations? or ?) and how to finance such actions.

4. What are effective models to assure sustainable financing for restructured and "reinvigorated" NARS? How can the articulation between the NARS and other levels of the international agricultural research system be improved?

5. How can the evolving food marketing systems be strengthened to promote agricultural intensification? While the input and food marketing systems in Africa have been transformed over the past 5-8 years, there is a dearth of empirical information about how these systems are performing, and the types of mechanisms that are evolving to handle price and production risks. Major unknowns: (1) to what extent has liberalization resulted in rapid private sector response as envisaged by reform advocates -- what are the major barriers continuing to constrain private investment in the newly liberalized systems; (2) how has liberalization affected farmer access to key inputs, credit, and access to commodity market outlets; (3) how to improve competition and vertical coordination in the systems; (4) how to stimulate and finance mechanisms for handling price and production risks.

6. What are the most important constraints on the use of productivity-enhancing food crop technology? To what extent is it being used, and what strategies would help promote cost-effective use of the technologies?

7. Food Assistance: Potential as a Development Tool, Role in Structural Transformation

8. Role of Cash Cropping and Agricultural Commercialization in Structural Transformation. Role of foreign investment in transformation of agricultural economies -- macro and strategic agribusiness connections to link African farmer to global markets. What does commercialization / structural transformation imply about farm structure, landholding size, and demographic shifts. Is there evidence that these changes are taking place in some areas?

9. Future of Biotechnology: Implications for Africa. As the pace of adoption increases rapidly for farmers in USA, Europe, and Asia, what will happen to the competitiveness of African farmers if they do not gain access? What kinds of institutional arrangements will be required for African farmers to gain access to it? What role will African governments need to play in the process? What kinds of firms will need to be involved if African farmers are to benefit from it. International trade dimensions, implications for competitiveness of African agriculture.

10. Regional Agricultural Trade / Integration. It is widely recognized that there are many unexploited opportunities for greater regional specialization and trade within Africa. Exploiting these requires improved transportation and handling facilities, reduction of transaction costs, better information, and lowering of trade barriers among African countries. Many of these barriers were erected as part of costly attempts to assure food security through national food self-sufficiency. This paper identifies major constraints on operationalizing the potential gains from regional trade, and identifies strategies for overcoming them.

11. "Safety nets" in an era of "liberalized" markets.