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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.

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Regional Director

Sara Mbago-Bhunu Director, East and Southern Africa Division

Spotlight

Spotlight

My Kenya Diary: Sabrina Dhowre Elba

Actor, activist, model, and IFAD Goodwill Ambassador Sabrina Dhowre Elba went to Kenya to see how rural small-scale farmers are transforming their communities. In her photo diary, she shares what she saw and learned on her visit.

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)

Stories and news

Stories and news

Hungry caterpillars threaten Kenya's crops. Can plants provide a natural pest control solution?

September 2022 - BLOG
Kenyan farmers and their crops face a tiny but destructive threat: the fall armyworm. With climate change causing more infestations, push-pull technologies are a sustainable and affordable way of naturally controlling pest numbers. Find out how this simple but effective technology works.

It’s time to transform African agriculture. These numbers show why

September 2022 - STORY
African agriculture is at a crucial juncture. It has enormous potential to not only feed Africa, but also the world. Yet, global conditions are holding small-scale African farmers back. Five numbers show how transforming African agriculture can make a big difference.

East Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades. It’s time to invest in climate adaptation

August 2022 - STORY
East Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades, with millions facing food insecurity as crops fail, livestock die and water sources dry up. Read how IFAD is building resilience to climate change and what else needs to be done.

Launch of the first Mobileremit Africa Report for financial and digital inclusion

June 2022 - NEWS
The MobileRemit Africa Report provides a framework to help countries identify data gaps, measure how enabling their policies are and the operating market environment for mobile-enabled remittances.

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Related publications

Related publications

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.

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.

Tanzania: Country Technical Note on Indigenous Peoples Issues

June 2012
The United Republic of Tanzania (URT) has a multi-ethnic population with more than 125 different ethnic communities. Four of these—the Hadzabe, the Akie, the Maasai and the Barabaig—identify themselves as indigenous peoples.