HKS Plays Role in New African Agribusiness Center

May 6, 2013
by Doug Gavel

The African Agribusiness Center is an emerging association of organizations and individuals committed to helping upgrade agricultural production in Africa through education and training. The idea originated from cooperation between Africa Atlantic and the Science, Technology and Globalization (STG) Project at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). It now includes support from HKS students and resources at MIT. Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development, serves as director of the STG Project. We asked for his thoughts on the new Center.

Q: How did you get involved in the network?

A: Africa Atlantic is headed by Issa Baluch, a 2011-2012 Senior Fellow of Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. This month leaders of the network will be presenting the idea at the Grow Africa Investment Forum in Cape Town (May 8-9) not only to seek more partners, but also to advance the view the educating farmers is one of the best ways to improve African agriculture. This summer STG’s Katherine Gordon will undertake a scoping visit to Ghana. Her report will provide additional information on how to design and implement the center.

Q: What is your role in assisting the network?

A: My role in the network is to provide intellectual support to the initiative by offering ideas as well as coordinating student participation. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain first-hand experience on how to leverage knowledge as a tool for agricultural improvement. This initiative has already benefited from the input of one of students who did a Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) that helped to shape early discussions on the initiative. The network also represents a learning opportunity and so part of my role is draw lessons from its evolution which can feed into our research and teaching.

Q: How best can the development of agribusiness help spur economic growth in Africa?

A: African economies are still largely dependent on agriculture, which employs up to 70% of the population in most countries. This means that transforming these economies will go hand in hand with agricultural improvement. Agricultural investments will be the lever that will raise most African economies. This also means that African agriculture needs to be viewed as a productive, dynamic and entrepreneurial sector that taps into the latest technological advances. In a recent study the World Bank estimates that the market for agriculture and agribusiness will reach $1 trillion by 2030. This is a serious growth opportunity not only for Africa but for the rest of the world.

Q: Are there other models which you hope to replicate?

A: Our goal is to bring experiences from around the world to bear on the design of farm-based centers, schools, colleges and universities. We have already drawn substantially from the lessons of EARTH University in Costa Rica which has over two decades of experience on agribusiness education in the tropics. I served on the governing board of this pioneering university whose model is most suited to African conditions. We also plan to share the lessons coming from the Ghana center widely. Building new agricultural learning institutions is in itself a learning process and this effort is part of the implementation of ideas that we have put forward to help Africa upgrade its agricultural sector.
Professor Calestous Juma

Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of economic development

"African economies are still largely dependent on agriculture, which employs up to 70% of the population in most countries. This means that transforming these economies will go hand in hand with agricultural improvement. Agricultural investments will be the lever that will raise most African economies."


John F. Kennedy School of Government 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-1100 Get Directions Visit Contact Page