Africa’s Development Corridors as Pathways to Agricultural Development, Regional Economic Integration and Food Security in Africa

34 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2020

See all articles by Katrin Kuhlmann

Katrin Kuhlmann

Georgetown University Law Center

Susan Sechler

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Joe Guinan

Aspen Institute - Aspen Institute - Washington, DC

Date Written: June 14, 2011


The 2007-2008 food crisis resulted in an unprecedented level of global public attention and political commitment to tackling the problem of food insecurity. At the G-8 summit in Italy in July 2009, the leaders of the advanced industrial countries issued the L’Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security, expressing their commitment to “take decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty through improving food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture” and pledging to mobilize $22 billion over three years for a global effort “characterized by a comprehensive approach to food security, effective coordination, support for country-owned processes and plans as well as by the use of multilateral institutions whenever appropriate.” The L’Aquila communiqué went beyond emergency response and food aid and placed a strong focus on the development of agricultural markets, trade and rural economic growth as the cornerstones of food security. It promised to create a “Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security” as part of a renewed effort to accelerate progress and reach the first Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger and under-nutrition by 2015.

The political attention and increased resources presently being devoted to global food security have created a new international policy and business environment that provides a window for a much needed and fundamental change of approach to African agricultural development and food security on the part of governments, donors, and the private sector. A number of significant initiatives are underway on the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. The European Union has created a €1 billion Food Facility (EUFF) and launched the EU Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (JPI). At the multilateral level, the United States, Canada, Australia, Korea, Ireland and Spain together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have collaborated in setting up a trust fund — the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) — at the World Bank as the primary mechanism for disbursing funds that materialize as part of the $22 billion pledged at the L’Aquila summit. In Africa itself, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) has been launched to extend sustainable land and water management practices, improve rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access, raise smallholder productivity and respond more effectively to food emergencies, and improve agricultural research to disseminate new technologies.

Since L’Aquila, the United States has been playing a strong international leadership role on food security, launching the Feed the Future initiative based on a whole-of-government approach and promising $3.5 billion from fiscal years 2010 to 2012. Feed the Future is organized around five broad principles (with specific actions to be taken under each category): comprehensively addressing the underlying causes of hunger; investing in country-led plans; improving strategic cooperation; leveraging the benefits of multilateral mechanisms; and making a sustained commitment to be held publicly accountable.

While policymakers are endeavoring to put in place a concerted response to the challenge of food insecurity in Africa, events on the ground are continuing to move rapidly. The early months of 2011 brought another global food price spike on the back of bad weather in Russia, Ukraine and China. The onset of the second food crisis in less than three years has put the world on notice that we have now definitively entered a new phase of global agricultural production and consumption. Recognition is growing that recent changes in global agricultural markets are structural in nature and signal a reversal of the long-term downward trend of prices for agricultural commodities. Growing global population and wealth are increasing demand for food as resources are diminishing, soils are being depleted, and climate change is touching off fierce competition for water and land. Yields of the world’s most important crops — rice and wheat — are rising more slowly than the number of mouths to feed, with experts predicting that global food production must rise by 70 percent by mid-century in order simply to keep pace with population. These long-term structural factors driving demand are here to stay and will continue to affect food prices for years to come.

In anticipation of a future in which their own populations will outgrow their ability to feed them, investors from countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, and Qatar have been looking for arable land on which to establish plantations to produce rice and other staple crops in African nations like Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, and Mali. Since 2007, tens of millions of acres of land on the African continent have been leased by foreign investors. Ethiopia alone has approved more than 800 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007. China has signed a contract with the Democratic Republic of Congo to grow 6.9 million acres of palm oil for biofuels, while European biofuels companies have acquired or requested another 10 million acres in Africa. These leases are generally long-term and include tax holidays, with few environmental, labor, or social safeguards. They have caused civil unrest in some countries. The Malagasy government fell after a scandalously one-sided agreement with South Korean Daewoo Logistics to take over half of Madagascar’s arable land to grow crops for export without paying rent was revealed. Experts are warning of a neo-colonial grab for African land.

This growing interest in Africa’s agricultural potential represents an enormous opportunity, but the manner in which the investment occurs will be critical to whether or not it leads to enhanced food security for Africa’s people. If land grabs continue without concern for smallholder farmers, it could result in a dismal re-run of colonial-era extractive models of investment that do little or nothing to benefit Africa. Different types of investment and different business models for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa are urgently needed to show investors — and African governments — that there are ways to deliver both commercial and social returns that will lead to better development outcomes and enhanced food security. Alongside the new models of investment it will be important to insist on mechanisms for transparency and accountability, so that Africans can shine a light on the corrupt practices that lead their governments to participate in these one-sided leasing agreements, bringing pressure on governments and investors to do business in ways that extend the benefits of these investments to Africans themselves.

The following paper sets out a framework for combining investment and policy in an innovative approach to agricultural development and food security in Africa on the basis of Africa’s “Development Corridors” movement, which consists of using existing roads and railroads linking mines and other investments with regional markets and ports to bring farmers into a system that can move food, goods, services and information. At TransFarm Africa, we believe that the substantial public and private investment going into Africa’s Development Corridors provides donors with an exceptional opportunity to focus collaboration with each other and with African leadership organizations to leverage high-level political commitments from national governments to improve agriculture-related policies and investment regimes and overcome trade- and infrastructure-related barriers that are slowing down Africa’s ability to produce more food.

This will be particularly important in agriculture and food, where coherent policy means infrastructure to enable inputs to reach the interior — many of Africa’s farmers are in the hinterlands far from the sea — and products to reach markets. In any attempt aimed at fostering food security and better nutrition in Africa over the longer term, it will be important not only to ensure that donors eventually leave behind a cohort of trained Africans who can manage responsive public institutions but that the process itself also strengthens those institutions — such as NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development — that are engaged in it. Far more can be accomplished if the effectiveness of these investments is augmented by private sector development, investment in public goods, and better and more transparent methods of accountability.

Suggested Citation

Kuhlmann, Katrin and Sechler, Susan and Guinan, Joe, Africa’s Development Corridors as Pathways to Agricultural Development, Regional Economic Integration and Food Security in Africa (June 14, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Katrin Kuhlmann (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Susan Sechler

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Joe Guinan

Aspen Institute - Aspen Institute - Washington, DC ( email )

One Dupont Circle
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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