Stronger agricultural growth is needed to reduce poverty in Africa, yet the region continues to fall behind. During the past three decades, many traditional African export crops have lost their competitive advantage in international markets, and many food crops consumed in Africa have faced increased competition from imports. In contrast to Africa's experience, during the same period farmers in two remote and formerly unpromising agricultural regions elsewhere in the developing world - Brazil's Cerrado and the Northeast Region of Thailand - conquered important world markets, defying the predictions of many skeptics. What accounted for their success? And could the experience of these two regionscarry important lessons for African agriculture? Awakening Africa's Sleeping Giant: Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in the Guinea Savannah Zone and Beyond summarizes the findings of the study on Competitive Commercial Agriculture for Africa, a collaborative effort led by the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
The study focused on Africa's Guinea Savannah zone, a vast and still largely unexploited area that shares many similarities with the Brazilian Cerrado and the Northeast Region of Thailand. Based on detailed case studies carried out on three continents, the book concludes that opportunities abound for Africa's farmers to compete effectively in regional and global markets. Considerable challenges will have to be overcome, however, and recent progress observed in a number of African countries could easily be reversed by bad policy choices. Making African agriculture competitive will depend on getting policies right, strengthening institutions, and increasing and refocusing investments in the sector.
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