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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Best buys for Africa: R&D to make policies cheaper for the long run

Fast-track Analysis

Many problems in Africa have solutions that simply need more money to resolve, like lack of water, where access can be improved with more dollars spent on well-understood bore-well technology. This was the subject of the first part of this report, where we investigated about 30 ready to scale-up policy solutions.

This second part looks at possibilities to further improve yields from existing interventions, and also problems that have more expensive solutions or maybe no feasible solutions at all currently. Here, investment into research and development (R&D) could possibly help make future spending more effective.

The overview on the next page shows 35 areas where R&D might help future spending becoming more effective. It answers where more resources can be invested into R&D to produce most social good.

It should be emphasized that this analysis is very preliminary and estimated for the world. However, as Africa has a significant part of both the global challenges and will stand to gain much from cheaper ways to tackle these challenges, it is likely that much of the global estimates will be similarly applicable for Africa in specific.

The uncertainty of the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is clear, spanning 1-4 orders of magnitude. This is simply a result of making educated guesses on what is essentially very difficult to predict — what extra R&D can develop of new knowledge and how much and how valuable that will be. 

Here, we will summarize the top 6 solutions that have an expected return on investment above 100, but clearly many of the other areas also have very attractive BCRs.