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Best buys for Africa: Investments in agricultural yield increase in Africa

Broad-based investments in agricultural R&D and rural infrastructure generate very large total economic benefits and big reductions in hunger in Africa. Because of the high cost of physical infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and irrigation, the BCR of a comprehensive package of these investments is lower than for increased investments in agricultural R&D, although it still has a substantial BCR of 10:1. Given the high impacts on economic growth, these investments warrant serious consideration as necessary complements to agricultural R&D and targeted investments in hunger and nutrition programs. As a stand-alone investment program, increased spending on international agricultural R&D has a very high BCR of 52:1. This result indicates severe underinvestment in agricultural R&D in Africa and the need to substantially increase such investment.

The International Agricultural Research Centers of the CGIAR are well-placed to scale-up agricultural R&D investments in Africa, with research facilities and programs in place in many country and regional programs across Africa. A phased doubling of investments between 2015 and 2030 is highly feasible. As with any increase in investments, there are risks, including the rate of success of generating well-adapted new technologies, and the rate of adoption of these technologies. To address these risks and achieve the large potential benefits of increased investment in agricultural R&D (and rural infrastructure), key stakeholders, such as governments, non–government organizations, international donor agencies, and the private sector should be involved. And, as with all interventions, enabling conditions should be improved, including access to credit and risk insurance, extension services, and complementary inputs.