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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

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)

Stories and news

Stories and news

Designing projects from the ground up: Insights and lessons from Ethiopia

July 2022 - BLOG
At IFAD, we take a community-driven, bottom-up approach to project design. This creates a sense of ownership for rural communities and governments alike. A recent example from Ethiopia shows how government and communities came together to design investments in building resilience.

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.

IFAD opens regional office to better serve the small-scale farmers in East and Southern Africa

June 2022 - NEWS
IFAD today officially opened its East and Southern Africa regional office to help the institution meet its goal of reducing hunger and poverty.

As COP15 tackles desertification, here are three ways IFAD is helping farmers in sub-Saharan Africa build their resilience to climate change

May 2022 - STORY
Sub-Saharan Africa’s drylands – that is, the areas where more water is lost through evaporation than gained through rainfall – are facing widespread degradation. There are many factors causing this, but one of the most prominent is the use of agricultural practices that aren’t adapted to the land, such as overgrazing and intensive agriculture.

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Related publications

Related publications

Investing in rural people in Kenya

April 2022
Since 1979, IFAD has invested US$455.09 million in 20 programmes and projects in Kenya (at a total cost of US$980.31 million), in support of the Government’s efforts to reduce rural poverty.

Investing in rural people in Madagascar

March 2022
Since 1979, IFAD has funded 17 rural development projects in Madagascar for a total of US$434.285 million. Four projects are currently ongoing.

Investing in rural people in Eritrea

January 2022
IFAD has been engaged in Eritrea for the past 26 years, investing a total of US$165 million across seven projects.