USCC Africa Enabling Ecosystems Dec 2023

Ellasandra Walsh Ellasandra Walsh
Associate Manager and Sustainability Lead, U.S.-Africa Business Center


December 05, 2023


In this paper, the U.S.-Africa Business Center puts forth a series of policy recommendations to support smallholder farmers in Africa, showing how sustainable agriculture development can help bolster global food security efforts while also yielding additional benefits to employment, national security, and intra-Africa agricultural trade.

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Executive Summary

There is considerable cause for optimism about the future of farming and agricultural production in Africa. However, recent challenges—including global conflicts and climate pressures — threaten the reliance on food imports traditionally favored by many African nations.  

Sustainable agriculture development can help bolster global food security efforts while also yielding additional benefits to employment, national security, and intra-Africa agricultural trade. By unpacking the major challenges and solutions to increasing food production, this paper aims to examine the potential of smallholder farming in Africa as major food producers for the continent, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where needs are most acute.  

Inputs to this paper have been provided by the U.S. private sector, which has a vested interest in the success of African agriculture and years of expertise in the products, solutions, and policies that will help achieve success for the wider agriculture ecosystem. The intention of this paper is to advance policy recommendations for consideration by U.S. and African governments that will create more opportunities for investments and partnerships with the private sector and multinational organizations.  

The recommendations proposed are listed below. 

Issue 1: Financing sustainable agriculture 

  • Using blended financing efficiently and covering all stages of a program from conception to upkeep. 
  • Adding micro-finance options and strengthening Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) to allow for the purchasing of equipment, fertilizers, knowledge transfers and skills training, and increasing service providers for various initiatives. 
  • Offering credit guarantee schemes for increased access to loans at lower interest rates for smallholder farmers and Agri-SMEs. 
  • Increasing collateral for loans by formalizing landownership and registration procedures. 
  • Investing in increased capacity building and financial literacy for farmers and producers.   
  • Increasing flexibility in U.S. government-led lending regulations, particularly in lending to state-owned enterprises.  
  • Aligning standards and processes, including using existing common frameworks and AU initiatives as guideposts where possible. 
  • Investing in and strengthening agricultural research centers that can help apply best practices and coordinate policies between governments.  

Issue 2: Access to proper inputs, fuel, and fertilizers  

  • Greater discipline in implementing global best practices for farming. 
  • Prioritizing investments and implementation strategies for access to higher quality inputs. 
  • Training on inspection sampling and testing of imported seeds, crops, and food, aligned around SPS and Gafta standards. 
  • Training on best practices for the management and application of pesticides and microbiological control.  
  • Employing climate and pest-resistant plant technologies, including genetically modified seeds. 
  • Aligning standards around climate solutions, including promotion of climate smart agriculture techniques. 
  • Encouraging government and business site visits to farming communities across various regions and reverse trade missions between the U.S. and Africa for increased bilateral knowledge-sharing and best practices for climate smart agriculture.  

Issue 3:Access to mechanized solutions, including training, parts, and service 

  • Designing holistic and sustainable mechanization strategies through public-private partnerships. 
  • Partnering on the implementation of local mechanization training centers or other platforms that allow for proper education and training for mechanized equipment. 
  • Zero-rating any duty or tax on the import of agriculture machinery parts and providing trade facilitation measures. 
  • Encouraging drip-irrigation systems in communities. 
  • Funding and educating on water purification and reuse facilities.  

Issue 4: Access to enabling technologies and technology infrastructure, including incorporating SMEs and mid-cap companies to bridge the gaps  

  • Funding the development of and training for technology-driven initiatives. 
  • Partnering with agricultural small and medium enterprises (Agri-SMEs).  
  • Partnering with business associations such as American Chambers of Commerce (AmChams) and other local and national business organizations.  
  • Implementing electrified or off-grid cold storage solutions. 
  • Carefully considering cross-border data regulations and emerging AI technologies. 
  • Financing for electricity infrastructure projects.   

Issue 5: Access to off-takers, trade infrastructure, supply chains, and commodity markets  

  • Building and maintaining inexpensive transportation systems including natural water routes, canals, railroads, roads, and highway systems. 
  • Matching with guaranteed or consistent off takers. 
  • Setting consistent quality and safety standards for agriculture products and traded goods. 
  • Implementing unitization and setting standards for truck sizes, racks, and other logistics equipment. 
  • Diversifying export markets to create more market potential and stabilize export revenues. 
  • Partnering with the AfCFTA to suggest policy frameworks and support infrastructure development. 

Despite concerns over Africa’s food security, significant opportunity exists to improve small-scale farming for large-scale impact. Each of the systemic issues identified within smallholder farming practices can be solved for, allowing deepened, sustained engagement for African governments, the U.S. government, Multilateral Development Banks, NGOs, and the private sector. We hope that these recommendations serve as the basis for increased attention to smallholder farming in Africa and allow for a more sustainable future that will significantly increase livelihoods on the African continent and beyond.  

USCC Africa Enabling Ecosystems Dec 2023

About the authors

Ellasandra Walsh

Ellasandra Walsh

Ellasandra Walsh is associate manager of the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She leads the Chamber’s Sustainability policy portfolio for Africa, including work around climate finance, green energy, food security, and agriculture for the African continent.

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