Exploring Potential Benefits of Repurposing Agricultural Subsidies in sub-Saharan Africa

“Countries across Africa committed to transforming their food systems in the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. Rethinking the level of agriculture subsidies, and where they are focused, presents  a major opportunity to contribute to this vital agenda.”

Rhoda Tumusiime, Former Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission (AUC)

The Brief

This technical brief from the Global Panel aims to inform the debate around rebalancing and repurposing agricultural subsidies and fiscal resources.

The Global Panel recommends that reallocating agriculture sector support should become a key part of the ongoing dialogue on food system transformation and also an important consideration as countries deliver on their commitments in the Malabo Declaration. Given the food system’s increasing impacts on health and the environment in many countries, maintaining the status quo on subsidies is not an option.


Agriculture sector support

Worldwide, governments spend more than US$817 billion annually to support the agriculture sector. In 2015, sub-Saharan Africa spent an estimated US$680 million on agricultural subsidies. These subsidies typically support commodities such as staple grains or exportable cotton, which can have higher impacts on water use and land-use change, as well as depleting soils and promoting greenhouse gas emissions.


Modelling analysis

The results of the new modelling presented in this brief demonstrate a case for Africa’s policymakers to consider repurposing existing subsidies and even increasing the overall level of subsidies provided towards healthier foods. Policymakers must adopt a nuanced approach, one that is informed by the best science, to address trade-offs and avoid any pitfalls or unintended consequences.