This paper critically reviews the effects of the global food and financial crises on developing countries, with specific focus on Africa. While assessments of the intertwined effects of the crises have often focused on short-term transitory causal factors, this paper takes the view that the causes of the food crises in Africa are long term and fundamentally structural. Policy measures to address the food crises therefore should focus on resolving the long-term structural impediments to accelerated agricultural growth. The paper argues that market fundamentalist policy prescriptions have failed in Africa and are at the root of the high poverty and food insecurity being experienced by African countries. Externally imposed policy prescriptions of one size fits all are inimical to the growth of African agriculture, and to self-reliance in food production, given the increasing unreliability of global markets for accessing food. Africa needs to take bold steps to accelerate food production using home-based policies that are better aligned with its state of economic growth and development, as well as level of poverty. Policy recommendations to accelerate food production include greater investments to raise the productivity of staple food crops; ‘growth enhancement support’ (GES) to unlock poverty traps by combining public farm support for farmers with risk sharing instruments that will unlock financing for farmers and agribusinesses, and speed up the process of commercialization of smallholder agriculture; policies to promote expanded use of fertilisers; seed policies to expand the use of improved seeds and the growth of the private sector seed industry; leveraging commercial bank financing into agriculture through risk-sharing instruments; focusing investments within the breadbasket areas of African countries, where the rate of returns on investments will be high; policies to improve climate change adaptation; and a greater strategic role for the state in correcting for market failures, making investments in public goods, supporting farmers, and guiding the market systems to accelerate food production.


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