Why African governments under-invest in agriculture: results from an expert survey
Agricultural productivity growth is widely seen as an essential instrument of poverty reduction, food security and broader economic growth. Paradoxically, however, the agricultural sector is often neglected by African governments in what is often termed ‘urban bias’. This paper explores what appears to be a very contemporary form of urban bias: that despite open acknowledgement of the importance of agriculture, public expenditure allocations to the agricultural sector remain very low in Africa. An innovation of the paper is to go beyond the broad cross-country picture about why this might be the case to instead examine more complex country stories through the use of expert surveys. Specifically, we interview senior policymakers in ministries of agriculture, ministries of finance, planning authorities, and donor agencies, for two sub-Saharan African countries - Uganda and Ghana - in which agricultural expenditure shares have been very low since the structural adjustments of the 1980s. Expert opinions on this issue belie simplistic explanations of the neglect of agriculture, in that under-investment is attributed to a range of institutions and processes, including weak and inconsistent political leadership, ineffectual and organizationally dysfunctional ministries of agriculture, and budgetary processes that disadvantage both short term spending and long term planning in agriculture. The paper concludes with some novel policy implications from these results.
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