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East and Southern Africa

Overview

Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and to some of the poorest, the East and Southern Africa region displays remarkably diverse levels of economic growth.

Unfortunately, this growth has not automatically led to a reduction in poverty. Instead, there has been an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line. This is partly because Africa has the largest proportion of young people, many of whom are unemployed, in the world.

Over 65 per cent of the population of the region depends on farming. Yet, in recent years, there has been a decline in agricultural production triggered by drought and climate change.

Fundamental weaknesses in the agricultural sector have prevented a broad-based reduction in rural poverty and inequality, leaving many small farmers trapped in poverty. In particular, these include a lack of secure access to land, credit, and markets, notably for women and young people.

Overcoming obstacles, raising incomes

Nevertheless, economies in the region are evolving and opportunities are emerging. Strong investment from remittances and a buoyant private sector, and a growing middle class, provide resources and boost demand.

However, there have been different levels of progress in terms of development, economic growth and sustainable rural transformation. Some more developed markets, such as those of South Africa, have relatively sophisticated supply chains and infrastructure. In others, long distances and isolation pose obstacles that prevent smallholders from accessing markets and urban consumers, and thus from increasing their incomes.

Partnerships that put people first

At IFAD, we work closely with governments to develop policy frameworks.

When shaping projects, we choose a variety of strategies tailored to each set of local circumstances. We identify the core problems and provide blended solutions, including better agricultural technologies, finance, empowerment of women and young people, natural resource management and adaptation to climate change.

Working with governments, NGOs, local people and organizations, we help smallholder farmers introduce better farming techniques and crops; and access markets to enhance incomes, food security, and nutrition. We also connect farmers to rural entrepreneurs with access to finance. This helps ensure that growth is inclusive, sustainable and diverse.

The proof: by the end of 2016, 16 of the region’s governments had partnered with us for a total of 42 programmes, and our financing commitment was for over US$2 million.

Learn more

Agriculture is the largest sector in the East and Southern Africa region, employing 65 per cent of Africa’s labour force and accounting for over 30 per cent of the region's GDP.

Economic growth has done little to reduce hunger in the region: malnutrition levels are only 5 percentage points lower than in 1990.

Maize, wheat, rice, millet, potatoes and cassava are the main agricultural trade commodities for the region, generating estimated annual trade revenues of US$50 billion.

Asset Publisher

Regional Director

Sara Mbago-Bhunu Director, East and Southern Africa Division

Spotlight

Spotlight

Amidst drought and flooding, Malawian farmers look to diversify their diet

An IFAD-supported project is encouraging Malawian farmers to eat the food they produce - instead of over relying on maize and other food products that they are forced to buy.

Where we work

Projects and programmes

Projects and programmes

Burundi

Project to Support Agricultural and Rural Financial Inclusion in Burundi (PAIFAR-B)

Kenya

Aquaculture Business Development Programme

Madagascar

Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains Development Programme (DEFIS)

Related news

Related news

IFAD to increase investment and presence in transforming food systems in East and Southern Africa

November 2021 - NEWS
The IFAD regional team held its annual East and Southern Africa Business Planning meeting to outline a vision for the next three years, under the IFAD 12 replenishment cycle. With less than 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the region’s small-scale farmers and rural people suffering the effects of the pandemic, climate change impacts, locust infestation and other crises, it is essential to plan bold actions to preserve and advance development gains.

IFAD report predicts steep drop in African staple crops by 2050, prompting urgent call for adaptation funding at COP26

October 2021 - NEWS
Staple crops in eight African countries could decrease by as much as 80 percent by 2050 in some areas if temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, according to a report released today by IFAD.

African small-scale farmers use radio and mobile phones to send a message of optimism and caution to world leaders attending Food Systems Summit

September 2021 - NEWS
Small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are impacted disproportionately by climate change, poverty and undernutrition, yet a report released today shows many remain optimistic about the future of farming.

Related publications

Related publications

Partnerships between producer organizations and enterprises - Lessons learned from recent experiences in West and East Africa

November 2021
Partnerships between producer organizations (POs) and enterprises are promoted as a model for structuring value chains to integrate small producers more equitably and sustainably.

What can smallholder farmers grow in a warmer world? Climate change and future crop suitability in East and Southern Africa

October 2021
With funding from ASAP2, eight Climate Risk Analysis reports were produced by the University of Cape Town, covering Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Strengthening sorghum and millet value chains for food, nutritional and income security in arid and semi‑arid lands of Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania (SOMNI)

November 2020
Sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet are the most important staple foods for most households in the semi-arid tropics of East Africa, as these crops grow in harsh environments where other crops do not grow well.