50 years since independence, agriculture remains a key driver for economic growth, rural development and poverty reduction in many African countries. Yet, the sector has suffered from market and policy failures and has largely failed to fulfil its potential. Why do agricultural policies seem to have failed in seizing development opportunities? This paper argues that this is partly due to the fact that the legacy of political economy of agricultural policy reforms in Africa was inadequately considered. After decades of research, the political economy of agricultural policy making in Africa still seems to puzzle academics and practitioners alike. This paper discusses the evolution of the specific political economy in agricultural policy reforms from a historic perspective, and why political economy issues are (still) key problems in rural development. Even though political economy has been analysed from different economic and social science angles, the respective results have rarely been synthesised and put into practical use. The author argues that a lot can be gained by addressing the political economy in African agriculture in a more inter-disciplinary way and she provides lessons learned for both development research and development cooperation.