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Unproductive Agriculture Is Holding Africa Back

by moneylab
An illustration depicting a blue person driving a blue tractor beside and orange person with a hoe in hand.
Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; images by CSA Images/Getty Image

Opinion Writer

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Africa south of the Sahara is producing more than six times as much food as it did in 1961. That’s a much bigger increase than that of the world as a whole, which has merely quadrupled agricultural output, as this chart shows. From this data alone, sub-Saharan Africa seems to be an agricultural success story.


A chart showing the change in value of agricultural output adjusted for inflation in sub-Saharan Africa and the world.

The next chart, though, gives a much darker picture. It shows sub-Saharan Africa badly trailing the world as a whole in improvements in total factor productivity of agriculture. Total factor productivity measures how much output increases over and above what one would expect from increased inputs of land, labor and machinery.

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Peter Coy is a writer for the Opinion section of The Times, covering economics and business. Email him at @petercoy

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