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Fact 6: Sub-Saharan African agricultural productivity (yield per hectare) is about 50 per cent of its European equivalent. The differences in productivity are even bigger between Sub-Saharan countries.

For further illustration of this fact, we compared five countries with high (Top5) agricultural productivity (expressed in yield per hectare) from Sub-Saharan Africa and the European Union for 2007. For relatively meaningful comparison, maize – which is cultivated on both continents – as well as cassava and potatoes were chosen, the latter because they are both of similar quality and serve as an important staple food.

European Top5-countries’ maize yields 9.5 tons per hectare, which is more than twice as much as in Sub-Saharan Africa. Another comparison among each continent’s country with the highest respective productivity rate tells the same story. Belgian maize harvest exceeds the one in Mauritius (7.7 tons per hectare) by 35 per cent.

 

Top5 countries in Sub-Saharan African and European Maize production (2007)

Sub-Saharan Africa Europe
country         Yield (kg/ha) country         Yield (kg/ha)
Mauritius 7667 Belgium 10335
Reunion 7000 Spain 10005
South Africa 2876 Italy 9144
Ethiopia 2725 Austria 9105
Guinea-Bissau 2370 Germany 9085

Data Source: www.gapminder.org (Gapminder Agriculture)

 

Bottom5 countries in Sub-Saharan African and European Maize production (2007)

Sub-Saharan Africa Europe
country         Yield (kg/ha) country         Yield (kg/ha)
Eritrea 159 Bulgaria 1459
Botswana 214 Romania 1740
Somalia 421 Slovakia 4275
Lesotho 425 Lithuania 4815
Angola 511 Portugal 5540

Data Source: www.gapminder.org (Gapminder Agriculture)

 

The results for cassava and potatoes are pretty similar. Cassava productivity accounts for only 42 per cent of an average European potato harvest (42.5 tons per hectare). Another comparison among each continent’s country with the highest respective productivity rate tells the same story. The Dutch potato yield is about 37 per cent more productive than Niger’s cassava yield (21.8 tons per hectare).

 

Top5 countries in Sub-Saharan African Cassava and European potato production (2007)

Sub-Saharan Africa Europe
country         Cassava Yield (kg/ha) country         Potato Yield (kg/ha)
Niger 21818 Netherlands 44721
Reunion 20000 France 43248
Malawi 16539 Belgium 42253
Mali 16400 Germany 42000
Mauritius 15000 United Kingdom 40540

Data Source: www.gapminder.org (Gapminder Agriculture)

 

Bottom5 countries in Sub-Saharan African Cassava and European potato production (2007)

Sub-Saharan Africa Europe
country         Cassava Yield (kg/ha) country         Potato Yield (kg/ha)
Sudan 1667 Lithuania 10911
Burkina Faso 2000 Romania 12370
Gambia 3000 Bulgaria 12956
Central African Rep. 3005 Portugal 15432
Zimbabwe 4315 Latvia 15891

Data Source: www.gapminder.org (Gapminder Agriculture)

 

The productivity gap further increases among Sub-Saharan countries:  a comparison between Sub-Saharan countries with high (Top5) and low productivity (Bottom5) reveals that the Top5 productivity is between three and 13 times higher. The same comparison among EU-countries shows that Top5-productivity – with one single exception: tomatoes – is only thrice as high as Bottom5-productivity. For this comparison the quantitatively ten most important agricultural products from each continent were taken into account. These results illustrate that productivity is higher and better balanced among European countries.

 

Box: Irrigation, improved varieties of cereals and fertilizer use

In developing countries – from now on also called Majority World – agriculture uses around 85 per cent of fresh water withdrawals. As a consequence, water resources are diminishing in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, there are still large untapped water resources available. In fact, in 2002, only 4 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s crop land was irrigated (WB 2008: 9, 51-53, 64-65 und 182ff).


Source: World Development Report 2008: 52

 

Between 1980 and 2000, the use of improved seeds increased significantly, especially in South and East Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa, improved varieties were used on only 24 per cent of the total arable land, exactly half as much as in the Middle East and North Africa (WB 2008: 51-53).

Source: World Development Report 2008: 52

 

Another important reason that Sub-Saharan African agricultural productivity remains on an unsatisfying level is a very low and irregular use of fertilizer. In 2002, fertilizer use was six times smaller than in North Africa and the Middle East. High fertilizer prices due to high transport costs and uncompetitive markets (e.g. market power of oligopolies or monopolies) as well as small interregional trade volumes are some explanations for this problem (WB 2008: 52f).

Source: World Development Report 2008: 52

 

Source: World Bank (2008): World Development Report 2008: 9, 51-53, 64-65 und 182ff

Remark: World Development Report 2008: graphs on page 52, taken from Evenson, Robert E., and Douglas Gollin. 2003. “Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution, 1960 to 2000.” Science 300(5620):758–62 and FAO 2006a: “FAOSTAT”. Rome, Food and Agricultural Organization.