Something akin to Asia’s rural development may, at last, be happening in parts of Africa. Since 2002 the proportion of African workers employed in agriculture has fallen from 66% to 57%. Yet the real value of agricultural production has grown at an average pace of 4.6% a year, double the rate between 1970 and 2000. Even so, the region is lagging behind. Most of the increase comes from using more land, rather than improved productivity.
A green revolution—the increase in agricultural yields seen in most parts of the poor world apart from Africa since the 1960s—is unlikely to succeed if government is obstructive. “Government is the most important partner,” says Boaz Keizire of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a think-tank with its headquarters in Kenya, “but in Africa it is the weakest link.”
Ideally, governments would pay for public goods, such as research and roads, and regulate markets lightly but fairly. Too often in Africa, they fail at these basic tasks. Read more