“Local Start-ups Hold the Key to Transforming Africa’s Seed Industry”

September 2, 2015

Author: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Agricultural Innovation in Africa; Science, Technology, and Globalization; Science, Technology, and Public Policy

The seed industry in sub-Saharan Africa is informal in nature, with approximately 80% of farmers saving and replanting seeds from year to year. This gives them security of access. But improved varieties — including high-yielding and hybrid crops — will increase productivity and income.

To get these seeds into the hands of farmers, a better marketing and distribution system is needed. Local small and medium-sized seed enterprises have a comparative advantage in reaching this underserved market due to their size and market reach.

There has been considerable concern over the potential control of Africa’s seed sector by large corporations. While such firms continue to operate in most countries, it notable that Africa’s seed sector is currently dominated by local start-ups.

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