Will your country be able to feed you in 50 years? Here's who will still be eating - or going hungry in Africa

Based on these data sets, Kenya is looking like a pretty safe bet but Gabon and Guinea Bissau lag far behind

FOOD can be very serious, and its absence can lead to the fall of even the most entrenched strongman. Which is why it’s important to keep an eye on it.

The International Food Policy and Research Institute has just launched its 2016 report. It reviews major trends, events, and changes affecting food security and nutrition in 2015 but it also provides us with key data insights which let us know just how on track various African countries are towards ensuring they can adequately feed their citizens. 

Though is has recently slowed sub-Saharan Africa has shown a positive trajectory over the past 10 years. From 2000 - 2011 spending in agricultural research has gone from $1.8 billion to $2.3 billion and the overall agricultural research capacity has increased by 50%. 

Trawling through the data down we pulled out three broad sets - investment in agriculture research, number of analysts/researchers and donor dependency - which allow us to have a clearer picture as to where each country stands and, looking at trends, figure out in which direction it is going. 


After a decade of stagnation during the 1990s, total spending in agricultural research and development (excluding the private sector) in sub-Saharan Africa grew by about one-third, from $1.8 billion in 2000 to $2.3 billion in 2011. 

This chart shows the national agricultural research expenditure data as categorised by salary-related expenses, operating and program costs, and capital investments by government, nonprofit, and higher education agencies.

The countries that are leading the way in spending are Nigeria (550m) with a large (and considering population size much needed) margin ahead of South Africa (294.5m), Kenya (259.9m), Ghana (139m) and Uganda (122.4m).

Trailing at the bottom of expenditure are Guinea Bissau (0.2m), Gabon (0.9m), Lesotho (2.5m), Eritrea (2.6m) and the Central Africa Republic (3.4m). Though their size may affect their investment, despite their low positions on the table already, Gabon showed a decline in expenditure growth (-51.8%) as did Guinea Bissau (-53.5%). Countries that showed encouraging trends in terms of the largest increases in expenditure are; Ethiopia (19.9%), Uganda (17.4%) and Mali (11.8%).

Human resource

A second useful indicator to figure out where the future may be heading in terms of food security is how many national agricultural researchers the country currently has in order to know what the capacity is. These are people that are employed at government, nonprofit, and higher education agencies. Overall the agricultural research capacity in sub-saharan Africa has increased by 50% during 2000–2011 to an estimated 14,500 full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers.

Three countries - Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria - employed more than one-third of those researchers in 2011.

The countries with the highest number of researchers are; Nigeria (2,687), Ethiopia (1,876), Kenya (1,147), Sudan (932) and Tanzania (814). Those with the least number of researchers, once again bearing in mind their small populations, are; Guinea Bissau (9), Cape Verde (21), Swaziland (27), Lesotho (41) and Gabon (42.6).

There are encouraging trends from Liberia (+138.6%), Togo (+42.4%), Chad (+32.1%), Ethiopia (+30.3%) and Mauritania (+26.4%) which ranked highest in terms of growth in the number of researchers between 2009 - 2011.

Donor dependency

Donor funding, by nature, is short-term and ad hoc, meaning that a high proportion of it can be skewed towards short-term goals that are not necessarily aligned with national or regional priorities. 

It’s therefore important to see just how much a country relies on donor funding for agricultural research and development. Overall, in 2011, funding from donors and development banks constituted close to 30% - but this changes greatly from country to country. 

The countries that rely the most on donor funding are; Madagascar (73%), Mali (63%), Burkina Faso (60%), Uganda (45%) and Mozambique (40%). Countries that showed 0% in donor share in funding are; South Africa, Namibia, Gabon, Botswana, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Nigeria. 

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