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Beintema, Nienke; Stads, Gert-Jan




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Public agricultural research spending in Africa increased rapidly during the 1960s. Since then, growth has stalled for the region as a whole. Many individual countries, however, actually experienced a decline in agricultural R&D expenditures during the 1990s when funding became increasingly scarce, irregular and donordependent.
In addition, the national science and technology (S&T) policies of many African countries are often poorly formulated. Given the continued withdrawal of donor funding, other sources will need to be consolidated and further developed in order to prevent a rapid erosion of agricultural R&D capacity. This should be accompanied by institutional reforms and sound S&T policies, both of which are prerequisites for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the region’s agricultural research.

So far, private sector research has not stepped in to fill the gap. Reliable estimates on private research spending are hard to come by, but the best (and most recent) evidence suggests that in 2000 an estimated $26 million of the $1.1 billion of agricultural R&D spending in 1993 international dollars in a 27-country sample was spent by private firms, representing only 2% of total (public and private) research investments that year. Most of the private technologies used throughout the region are supposedly based on research conducted elsewhere.

Technical change is a major factor in assuring food security and economic stability in Africa. New and bettertargeted technologies are essential to reach technical change, and a well developed and well supported agricultural research system is a prerequisite not only for the design of these technologies, but also for their dissemination and adoption. Evidently agricultural R&D has become a priority for many African governments and donor agencies. The recent IAC (2004) report recommends a substantial funding increase for African agricultural research by 2015 at an average rate of 10% per year. In view of the low, and often declining, level of agricultural R&D investments in Africa, as evidenced in this article, attaining this goal will be extremely challenging.