Understanding the Persistent Low Performance of African Agriculture

CIRPEE Working Paper No. 06-22

27 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2006

See all articles by Sylvain Dessy

Sylvain Dessy

Université Laval - Département d'Économique

Jacques Ewoudou

University of Montreal

Isabelle Ouellet

Developpement International Desjardins

Date Written: May 2006


We explain the persistence of low performances in African agriculture by analyzing the determinants of farmers' decisions to modernize their farming practices. Owing to sociocultural factors specific to Sub-Saharan Africa, farmers' decisions on farming practices are strategic complements. We demonstrate that the modernization game these farmers play admits two pure-strategy, Pareto-ranked, symmetric Nash-equilibria. The equilibrium where all farmers choose to modernize their farming methods is preferred to the one where all of them choose to stick to a traditional method. We argue that scarcity and economic opportunities put forward by neo-Boserupian theories of induced-innovation as determinants of the onset of agricultural innovations are, in the context of African countries, only necessary, but not sufficient to generate modernization of farming methods. Deliberate action to enhance adoption of agricultural innovations must therefore take the African's sociocultural context into consideration, or risk failure.

Keywords: Sub-Saharan Africa, Agricultural modernization, Fertilizer adoption, Supermodular games

JEL Classification: O14, C72, O13, Q12

Suggested Citation

Dessy, Sylvain and Ewoudou, Jacques and Ouellet, Isabelle, Understanding the Persistent Low Performance of African Agriculture (May 2006). CIRPEE Working Paper No. 06-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=905291 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.905291

Sylvain Dessy (Contact Author)

Université Laval - Département d'Économique ( email )

2325 Rue de l'Université
Ste-Foy, Quebec G1K 7P4 G1K 7P4

Jacques Ewoudou

University of Montreal ( email )

C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-Ville
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7

Isabelle Ouellet

Developpement International Desjardins ( email )

Levis G6V 6P8, Quebec

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