Illustration article 4 - The importance of the agri-food sector in the economies of Sub-Saharian Africa's countries

The importance of the agri-food sector in the économies of Sub-Saharian Africa's countries


The agri-food sector in sub-Saharian Africa is of vital importance for a number of reasons, affecting the region's economy, food security, rural development and socio-economic stability. Here are a few key elements illustrating this importance :

Contribution to the Economy

The agri-food sector is a pillar of the economy in sub-Saharian Africa, making a significant contribution to economic growth, job creation and food security.

According to the World Bank's 2020 report, agriculture accounts for around 23% of GDP in sub-Saharian Africa and employs more than 60% of the working population, helping to reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of rural populations.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that the industrialisation of the agri-food sector can stimulate economic transformation in sub-Saharian Africa, by adding value to agricultural products and creating more robust local value chains.

For the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), the sector is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa, particularly those relating to hunger, poverty and sustainable economic growth. For these international institutions, the sector is not just an economic pillar, but also a vector of social stability. Some local African institutions, such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), back up these statements by establishing agribusiness as the sector capable of transforming Africa into the ‘next global frontier of economic growth’.

Investment in agribusiness can therefore lead to a significant increase in exports, improved rural infrastructure and the creation of millions of jobs.

According to a Brookings report, agribusiness in Sub-Saharian Africa can become an engine of economic growth if it is supported by appropriate policies and investment in modern technologies, infrastructure and training.

Innovation and growth potential

The potential for innovation and growth in the agri-food industry in sub-Saharian Africa is immense. This region presents unique opportunities and specific challenges that can be addressed through innovative solutions and digital platforms. An in-depth analysis of this potential has enabled us to identify 3 main areas of focus

  • Supply Chain Improvement : According to the Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology, in a 2020 publication entitled ‘Enhancing Supply Chain Efficiency through Digital Marketplaces in Sub-Saharian Africa’, reducing the number of intermediaries in the supply chain reduces costs and improves product traceability. The introduction of digital tools could therefore resolve these supply chain inefficiencies by connecting producers directly to buyers.
  • Market access and international expansion : The adoption of innovative technologies, such as precision farming, digital traceability system and e-commerce platforms, plays a crucial role in improving the productivity and competitiveness of African agri-food products on world markets, according to the FAO. By adopting these tools, African companies in the agri-food sector will be able to open up more to international markets, thereby helping to redress the continent's trade deficit with the European Union, China and the United States.
  • Technology and innovation : Technology and innovation play a crucial role in the transformation of the agri-food sector in sub-Saharian Africa. The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and B2B platforms can help to improve productivity, sustainability and competitiveness, and enable tracking management, product traceability and transaction transparency.

Food security

  • Local production : Local production of food is essential to guarantee food security for populations. In sub-Saharian Africa, where population growth is rapid, the agri-food sector has to meet growing food demand.
  • Reduced dependency : The development of this sector reduces dependency on food imports, thereby stabilising prices and making countries less vulnerable to external shocks.

Rural Development and Poverty Reduction

  • Support for small farmers : The agri-food sector is often dominated by small farmers. Improving their access to markets, technologies and financing can significantly reduce poverty and improve living conditions in rural areas.
  • Infrastructure and Services : Agri-food development also stimulates improvements in rural infrastructure (roads, storage, irrigation) and services (agricultural extension, education), thereby strengthening rural development.

Social and Economic Stability

  • Migration prevention : By providing livelihoods and creating jobs in rural areas, the agri-food sector can help reduce internal and international migration, often caused by the search for better economic opportunities.
  • Conflict reduction : A robust agriculture and agri-food sector can ease social tensions by reducing conflicts over resources and livelihoods.

Sustainability and the Environment

  • Natural Resource Management : Sustainable agriculture and efficient management of natural resources (water, soil, biodiversity) are crucial for ecological resilience and long-term sustainability.
  • Climate Change : The agri-food sector plays a key role in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change, by promoting resilient and sustainable agricultural practices.


The agrifood sector is a cornerstone of economic, social and environmental development in sub-Saharian Africa. Strengthening and modernising the sector is essential to ensure sustainable development, poverty reduction, food security and socio-economic stability in the region.