Africa's Agricultural Policies--A More Concerted Effort Will Be Needed If Reform Is Expected

NSIAD-83-36: Published: Sep 8, 1983. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 1983.

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GAO reviewed efforts by the Agency for International Development (AID) to reform host-government agricultural policies in Sub-Saharan Africa, which have been recognized as a major cause of the current agricultural crisis in the region because agricultural producers are not provided with either appropriate incentives or suitable economic environments to make production beyond the subsistence level worthwhile.

GAO believes that AID preparation of a number of policy and strategy papers, development of guidelines for preparing country development strategies, and testimony before Congress fostered commendable policy reform. However, at the country level, GAO found that AID often does not have an ongoing viable program in place which recognizes the difficulties inherent in realizing policy reform and the potential long-term effort involved. Most missions have not yet fully identified and prioritized the key host-country economic policy constraints, nor have they been involved in the development of national food strategies. In addition, GAO found that further improvements are needed in AID attempts to upgrade the economic analysis capability of its mission staff. GAO found that few missions have better than minimal reform programs underway and that only half of the missions currently have programs to improve host-government analysis capability. Some missions have questioned their ability to effectively discuss policy with host-government officials. Finally, GAO found that many missions are not fully coordinating their reform efforts with other donors and other U.S. agencies or fully using concessional agricultural commodity programs to influence reform.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has emphasized the importance of policy reform and upgraded its staff. Missions are preparing detailed policy analyses and has hired a number of economists to undertake policy dialogue. AID has begun projects to improve host-government policy reform capabilities. The proposed Economic Policy Initiative will reward those countries that reform their economic policies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should require a definitive policy reform plan from the mission in each country, including an assessment of the probability for policy reform. Each plan should recognize the difficulties in motivating the country to make needed reforms and the potential and likely long-term nature of such an effort. Such a plan should provide actions that can be taken immediately and over the longer term and actions to be pursued if the country fails to respond or to make adequate progress.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID disagreed with the need for staff incentives for policy reform. Policy reform is receiving greater AID attention, since nonproject assistance is becoming more common in Africa. AID held consultations with major donors and is working to improve conditions. An interagency coordination group is working to involve interested U.S. agencies in policy reform strategies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should establish appropriate incentives for rewarding missions and staffs for their efforts in: (1) effectively carrying out policy reform programs; (2) enlisting the support of other donors for a more unified donor approach to policy reform; and (3) involving the Departments of State, Treasury, and Agriculture in the AID policy reform effort by soliciting their views and input on both regionwide and country-specific AID documents generated.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development


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