Unmasking the new green revolution in Africa: motives, players and dynamics

Unmasking the new green revolution in Africa: motives, players and dynamics

Where is the big push for a green revolution in Africa coming from?

Since the late 1990s, the development discourse in Africa has been dominated by the idea that of a “New Green Revolution in Africa”. This call has been promoted by the United Nations, governments in Africa and beyond, funded by private philanthropic foundations, and supported by agricultural transnational corporations. This report provides a critical analysis of the key players promoting the New Green Revolution in Africa and the dynamics among them.

The paper argues that the New Green Revolution and biotechnology agenda in Africa is underpinned by a neo-liberal economic push to integrate Africa into the world market economy by creating markets for agricultural inputs and products, all in the name of freeing poor African farmers from the clutches of hunger and poverty.

The paper discusses the following:

  • a background on the Green Revolution in Asia
  • Gordon Conway’s “Doubly Green Revolution for Africa”
  • the role of private foundations, such as the Rockefeller and the Gates Foundation in funding such initiatives
  • support for the Green Revolution for Africa from UN agencies, international financial institutions, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agriculture firms, the New Economic Partnership for Africa (NEPAD), as well as other players 

Based on this analysis. the paper argues that the current excitement over Africa has not arisen spontaneously, but is guided by strategic thinking based on a particular development paradigm that has not been developed from within the African continent nor crafted by Africans.

In contrast to this paradigm, the paper argues that any plan for agricultural development in Africa must abide by some key principles, including the following:

  • a revolution defined and implemented by Africans: any solution to Africa’s problems must be defined, designed, formulated and implemented by Africans
  • smallholders and poor farmers as central actors: any “true” revolution must have the people as central and lead actors, not mere extras in a play scripted by outsiders
  • structural change is pivotal: strategic solutions to the problems in agriculture heavily depend on access to productive resources such as land
  • agriculture as a living system: solutions to agricultural problems should be viewed as an integrated whole, and as part of the agricultural knowledge systems of local farmers
  • food sovereignty and self-sufficiency is key: agricultural development projects must first and foremost address the challenges of food security at the household level, instead of being designed as market-oriented
  • harnessing Africa’s resources for Africans: Africa’s resources should be harnessed and developed to benefit the poor who constitute the majority of the population
  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.