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The Sophistication and Diversification of the African Agricultural Sector: A Product Space Approach


  • Badibanga, Thaddee Mutumba
  • Ulimwengu, John M.


We use the concept of the product space to analyze the key features of the transformation process in Africa with a focus on the agricultural sector. Between 1962 and 2008, we find that both specialization and diversification occur for the overall economy and across sectors. Our findings also confirm that the transformation of the African economy is driven primarily by the increasing specialization of nonagricultural exports. However, the transformation process is still moving more slowly than that of an emerging economy such as Brazil. The index of specialization of agricultural exports grew at a modest annual rate of 2.1 percent between 1962 and 2008, compared to 5.0 percent for nonagricultural exports and 4.1 percent for the overall economy. Although substantive achievements are observed in terms of product specialization or sophistication, the diversification of agricultural exports is rather insignificant. Compared to Africa, Brazil appears to have experienced a more balanced process in terms of both specialization and diversification of its agriculture. African countries’ specific transformation dynamics are heterogeneous, suggesting that a one-size-fits-all strategy to boost the agricultural sector in Africa is probably not the best option. Therefore, we advocate that the goals and principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) be adapted and customized to individual countries and incorporated into their strategies to enhance the transformation process of the African agricultural sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Badibanga, Thaddee Mutumba & Ulimwengu, John M., 2012. "The Sophistication and Diversification of the African Agricultural Sector: A Product Space Approach," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124498, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea12:124498

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Diao, Xinshen & Hazell, Peter & Resnick, Danielle & Thurlow, James, 2006. "The role of agriculture in development: implications for Sub-Saharan Africa," DSGD discussion papers 29, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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    3. Usui, Norio & A. Abdon, Arnelyn May, 2010. "Structural Transformation in the Kyrgyz Republic: Engineering Future Paths of Capability Accumulation," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 200, Asian Development Bank.
    4. Ulimwengu, John & Sanyal, Prabuddha, 2011. "Using a spatial growth model to provide evidence of agricultural spillovers between countries in the NEPAD CAADP Framework:," IFPRI discussion papers 1069, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Jayne, T. S. & Govereh, J. & Mwanaumo, A. & Nyoro, J. K. & Chapoto, A., 2002. "False Promise or False Premise? The Experience of Food and Input Market Reform in Eastern and Southern Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 1967-1985, November.
    6. Badibanga, Thaddee & Diao, Xinshen & Roe, Terry & Somwaru, Agapi, 2009. "Dynamics of structural transformation: An empirical characterization in the case of China, Malaysia, and Ghana," IFPRI discussion papers 856, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Nin Pratt, Alejandro & Yu, Bingxin, 2008. "An updated look at the recovery of agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa:," IFPRI discussion papers 787, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Kherallah, Mylène & Delgado, Christopher L. & Gabre-Madhin, Eleni Z. & Minot, Nicholas & Johnson, Michael, 2002. "Reforming agricultural markets in Africa," Food policy statements 38, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Jesus Felipe & Utsav Kumar & Norio Usui & Arnelyn Abdon, 2013. "Why has China succeeded? And why it will continue to do so," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(4), pages 791-818.
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    Cited by:

    1. Amighini, Alessia & Sanfilippo, Marco, 2014. "Impact of South–South FDI and Trade on the Export Upgrading of African Economies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-17.

    More about this item


    structural transformation; diversification; sophistication; growth; export; Africa; Agricultural and Food Policy; Crop Production/Industries; International Development; International Relations/Trade; Production Economics; Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies; F19; O14; O33; O40;

    JEL classification:

    • F19 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Other
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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