Facing Financial Crisis: The imperative of regional Action for Agriculture in Africa

Detlev Putez

African farmers could produce more food staples and livestock products for domestic and regional markets if they had better regional infrastructure and food trade barriers were reduced. Natural resource management and defense against plant and animal epidemics also requires trans-boundary collective action.

The slow pace of regional integration, persistent under-funding of regional and sub-regional organizations and inadequate cross-border infrastructure prevent a more effective African crisis response. Regional operations are still limited by political will and lack of effective instruments to support them. Regional action for agriculture could help Africa recover from the financial crisis more quickly and help in seizing post-crisis opportunities.

The paper summarizes arguments for a stronger regional focus with respect to agriculture and rural development. It reviews successes and problems of regional operations by the African Development Bank and IFAD.

It argues that developing and financing a range of important regional public goods for agriculture, from regional markets to trans-national infrastructure, from plant and animal disease protection to natural resource management, could go a long way for farmers to seize post-crisis growth and development opportunities. Donors such as AfDB and IFAD need to develop their regional capacities and streamlined financing and implementation mechanisms independent of individual country borrowing decisions.