Agricultural Growth in China and Sub-Saharan African Countries (Distinguishedl Lecture)

Publication Year : 1995

Agriculture remains a dominant sector in the economies of most African and several Asian countries. However, the poor performance of agriculture in Africa stands in sharp contrast to the robust agricultural growth in many Asian countries.2 In this regard, the experience of China is perhaps as impressive as it is relevant to many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. A general observation is that the productivity of land and labour has to rise through intensive agriculture, given the limited area of arable land (in China and Africa) and the high rates of growth of population (as in Africa). In many African countries, labour productivity has fallen and land productivity has not increased significantly. In China, productivities of both land and labour have increased significantly since at least the early 1980s. Agricultural output can increase in three ways: (i) get more from the same quantities of inputs through better utilisation of the existing capacity; (ii) use increased quantities of inputs; and (iii) use new techniques to raise the productivity of each input or raise the total product curve. All of these may require changes in tenurial arrangements, levels of investment in infrastructure and support services, and policies that affect the prices of outputs and inputs. A close examination of factors underlying the contrasting experiences in China and African countries reveals important differences in the institutional and policy environments affecting the individual behaviour with regard to the adoption and use of new (profitable) technologies to raise the land and labour productivities. This paper is intended to highlight the linkages between agricultural growth and the institutional, policy, and behavioural aspects, contrasting the experiences of China and African countries.