Working Paper
The Theory and Practice of Agriculture, Growth, and Development in Africa

Africa’s improved growth performance over the last 15 years provides an opportunity for the continent to transit from recovery to structural transformation. This paper reviews the evolution of development theory and practice, the role of agriculture therein, and the pace of structural transformation in Africa over the last 50 years. The evolution has involved shifting roles of industry vs. agriculture and that of government, and the public sector vs. markets and the private sector. Government intervention in favour of industrialization in the 1960s-1970s resulted in the neglect of agriculture, poor growth performance, and a productivity-reducing structural transformation, characterized by an increasing concentration of low productivity labour in the informal service sector. The paper suggests a move away from the dual-economy to a three-dimensional model that pays greater attention to the large informal segment of the service sector. A successful transformation will require accelerated agricultural productivity growth, a modernized informal service sector, and effective industrialization strategies, with balanced roles for government, markets, and the private sector, all supported by country-led, evidence-based strategies exemplified under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).