Nigeria’s border closure: Why it will not pay off

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By Léopold Ghins and Philipp Heinrigs, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa


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Men offload rice at Bodija market, Ibadan, Nigeria. Flickr/IITA

It has been three months since Nigeria closed its land borders and to date there are few indications as to when they will open again. The country said it wants to reduce the smuggling of goods and stop illegal inflows of Asian rice and outflows of subsidised fuel. More fundamentally, Nigerian authorities justify the closure by the need to support the domestic agricultural sector and accelerate national productivity growth.

The closure is badly affecting livelihoods in local border economies. In Benin, communities in areas close to the Seme border near the sea, or further up north near the Owode border, largely depend on Nigerian markets for their sustenance. The sudden shutdown has caused thousands of smallholder farmers to lose their produce and default on credits. In the Dendi region (an area that spans across northern Benin, Niger and Nigeria), economic networks are strongly integrated across borders. Small traders that live on these networks have lost their principal sources of income. Continue reading

The food economy can create more jobs for West African youth

By Léopold Ghins and Koffi Zougbédé, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 

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Muhammad Sanyang, General Manager of MBK Farms, Banjul, Gambia.
© SWAC/OECD

Youth employment and job creation loom high on development agendas in West Africa. The issue is also a priority at the continental and international levels: decent work and youth empowerment are priority areas within the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and ‘youth and jobs in the Sahel’ will figure prominently amongst talks at the G7 Summit which begins this Saturday in Biarritz.

Such policy focus is necessary in view of the demographic realities in the region. Although unemployment is low overall, informality remains prevalent, and growing numbers of young people struggle to access attractive training or sources of income. West African economies need to create more and better jobs. Yet, from a policy perspective, how to support decent and inclusive job creation is not always clear. Trade-offs in public resource allocations across sectors and information gaps abound.

In this context, what and where are the opportunities for policymakers willing to address the challenge of decent job creation? Continue reading

Turning the changing food needs of a rising middle class into decent jobs for rural youth

By Alexandre Kolev, Head of Unit, Social Cohesion, and Ji-Yeun Rim, Co-ordinator, Youth Inclusion Project, OECD Development Centre


To read more on this subject, check out
The Future of Rural Youth in Developing Countries:
Tapping the Potential of Local Value Chains


banner-youth-inclusion-home-page.890wRural youth constitute the majority of the youth population today in most developing countries, and their number keeps growing. Most of them are low educated, engaged in low-value added farming, and struggle to find better jobs to escape poverty and hardworking conditions. Only a tiny proportion of rural youth want to keep their jobs, and few work in high-skilled occupations. What is becoming increasingly clear is that rural youth are turning their backs on subsistence agriculture; they have high expectations, do not want to farm like their parents and are lured by the thought of better jobs in urban areas or abroad. As a result, many rural youth end up working in urban areas in low-productive informal activities.

What could break this cycle is growing local and regional demand for processed food from a rising urban middle class in many parts of the developing world. This represents an untapped opportunity to achieve the triple objectives of decent job creation for rural youth, food security and sustainable production. In Africa alone, domestic demand for processed food is growing fast, more than 1.5 times faster than the global average between 2005 and 2015. These trends offer huge opportunities for developing food systems geared toward local and regional markets, much larger than for global markets.

So, what’s standing in the way of achieving this opportunity? Continue reading

Disentangling urban and rural food security issues in West Africa

By Richard Clarke, Consultant, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

The rapid growth of cities in West Africa poses significant challenges across development dimensions. In particular, as the location of poverty spreads from rural to urban areas so have issues of food insecurity and malnutrition. Indeed, the potential impact of growing food insecurity in urban areas was highlighted by the widespread rioting over food prices in 2008.

The West African region is set to experience a further doubling of its urban population over the next 20 years, having grown from 6 million to 170 million between 1950 and 2015. This growth will place greater demands on regional food systems, which themselves are increasingly exposed to adverse global climatic and economic conditions, to provide cities with their nutritional needs.   Continue reading

Food prices must drop in Africa: How can this be achieved?

By Thomas Allen, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

After the 2007-08 crisis, we got into the bad habit when discussing food prices of focusing almost exclusively on volatility and overlooking the question of the level of prices. Of course, reasons were good for this; between February 2007 and February 2008, world food prices jumped 60%. These increases combined with local factors had dramatic effects, particularly in West Africa, where millions of households already had insufficient income to cover their basic nutritional needs. Today, according to OECD and FAO projections, food prices are expected to remain stable in the medium-term. This is a good time to re-examine some important questions.

Are food products cheap in sub-Saharan Africa?

The question may seem surprising, as food is no doubt cheaper in the poorest countries. This is the first thing that any tourist would tell you, and it is confirmed by statistics. Sub-Saharan countries do indeed have the lowest prices in absolute terms (see figure). African food products are therefore much more affordable…for the European consumer. What about for the African consumer? Continue reading

Are we ready to prevent the next food price crisis?

By Denis Drechsler, Project Manager, Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

food-crisisWhen prices of staple food crops soared in international markets in 2007-10, it was a wakeup call for many world leaders to take action. In view of millions of families being pushed into hunger, the G20 decided to create the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to combat excessive volatility by enhancing transparency and policy co-ordination in international food markets.

Since its launch in 2011, AMIS has provided more reliable and timely assessments of global food supplies by working closely with the main trading countries of staple food crops. This has created a more level playing field for all market actors to make informed decisions. Even more important have been achievements in the area of policy dialogue. When maize prices spiked in 2012, for example, regular exchanges among the key producing countries helped avoid a repeat of hasty policy action, such as export bans that had exacerbated market turbulences in the past. Through AMIS, it seems, the world is better prepared to minimise the risk of future food price crises.

Continue reading

Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration in West Africa

By John Staatz, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University

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Photo credit: Ryan Vroegindewey

Soaring and volatile international food prices since 2007-08 have forced West African governments and their development partners to translate their long-standing rhetoric about support for West African agriculture into concrete programmes. Doing so effectively, however, has proven much more challenging than simply meeting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) goal of increasing the share of national budgets and donor funds dedicated to the agricultural sector. A recently released joint study by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and Michigan State University (MSU) draws lessons from such efforts over the past 10 years and suggests ways in which policies and programmes can be more effective in helping West Africa feed its young, burgeoning and increasingly urban population. Research by MSU, SFSA and West African scholars provides a number of crucial policy insights. Continue reading