Africa has plenty of rich agricultural land but millions of starving residents. The problem is that too much money is going to the wrong places along the way.
The Guardian has a crisp summary of a new World Bank report that documents the paradox:
Because of inconsistent policies within Africa, seeds and fertilisers are generally imported from outside at high prices, with new innovations coming years later than in other developing regions. Transport services remain extremely expensive, outdated and uncompetitive as roadblocks eat time and money. Regulations on imports and exports are volatile, with changes often only communicated to foreign producers when they reach the border. Those borders remain hotbeds of corruption and abuse: traders are regularly harassed, sexually abused, or forced to pay bribes.
A wealth of well-organized data about the components of African food-staple value chains starts on page 4 of the World Bank's main report (page 24 of the actual PDF) and continues throughout. Here's a taste:
The cost of transportation comprises a high share of the overall cost of staples given their low-value to weight ratio. For example, a 2007 value chain study in Cameroon (Keyser, with Nkama and Doya) found that domestic handling and transport costs accounted for 21–35 percent of total shipment value for fresh cassava over a delivery distance of 130km, compared with less than 12 percent for cotton lint delivered more than 1,200km.
Via Poverty News Blog.