Networking Power: International Donors and the New Green Revolution for Africa

Authors: Rachel Schurman*, University of Minnesota
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Development, Political Geography
Keywords: Green Revolution for Africa, transnational policy networks
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past two decades a panoply of transnational actors – including international development agencies, NGOs, philanthropic organizations, management consultants, and multilateral African agencies – has produced an influential vision of transforming African agriculture from an object of poverty-alleviating development assistance to a motor of continental economic growth. This paper analyzes the extensive networking and communicative labor performed by key policy players to advance this vision, which involves integrating smallholders into markets and promoting agribusiness through multi-stakeholder initiatives and value chain development. We show how these actors constructed an expanding institutional and ideational architecture for this transformation project by defining African agricultural challenges in specific ways, imbuing certain ideas with authority, and establishing strategic institutional connections. We further establish how the power dynamics within this architecture shifted over time, as distinct constellations of people and organizations took the lead in shaping the discourse, policy ideas, and investment this emerging governance regime would advance. In its current iteration, the emphasis on smallholder farmers has faded in importance while interest in the “middle farmer” sector, private agribusiness, and creating the “enabling state” has grown. This may bode positively for future business development, but it promises little in the way of improving the food security and nutrition of the vast majority of African smallholders.

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