Exploring the future of Sub-Saharan agriculture

Published 8 March 2023


In late 2022, Demos Helsinki facilitated a series of workshops to enable national agri-food organisations in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tanzania to define new opportunities and risks by looking at long-term changes in agriculture.


The Beyond Farming Collective — a 3-year programme led by Bopinc — aims to establish a network of interconnected agri-food organisations to effectively capitalise on market opportunities and proactively champion Inclusive Agricultural Transformation. As part of the initial strategy phase of the project, Demos Helsinki conducted a series of in-country foresight workshops with representatives of each of the 30 selected organisations, exploring possible futures of agriculture in 2050. The goal was to help the Agriculture and Food Industry Organisations (AFIOs) imagine new services or activities when taking a long-term perspective on their operations and environment.


Until 2050, it is expected that half of the world’s population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries, including Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania. To feed this population, these countries need drastic increases in agricultural yields. Agriculture represents, on average, 70% of jobs in the economy, so sectoral growth is crucial to national development. The expected increase in extreme weather events (drought, flooding), animal diseases, and pressure on regional armed conflicts due to climate change, as well as lack of infrastructure, international market volatility, funding, education, and resource allocation are all issues facing this massive transformational need. However, the agriculture sector’s central role in these countries also offers the greatest opportunities to tackle and rethink many important challenges (health, urbanisation, education, technological adoption, mobility, etc.).


Our hypothesis in joining this project was that the participant organisations play a central role between the individual producers, the public sector and the rest of the economy. They could be in a pivotal position to help reshape the sector in the coming years. A long-term and systemic perspective can help generate more leadership and a sense of agency in these organisations to steer the future of their respective sectors and countries. The impact of this goes beyond individual empowerment; it ensures sectorial resilience.


There is one overarching narrative about agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: that it will need to increase production. Though this is a key goal, it disregards other objectives that the sector could help address for the future of these countries (climate mitigation, healthcare improvements, regional equality, etc.). Using foresight, we hope to help the participant organisations develop their leadership and find new systemic opportunities to shape this narrative more proactively.


Bopinc will use these goals to structure the next phases of their multi-year project: an international peer-support network, an accelerator programme and an academy to strengthen the AFIO leadership and development capabilities further.


Bopinc led the project in partnership with the African Agribusiness Institute and the Royal Tropical Institute, funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 30 AFIOs participated in our workshops. We hosted one workshop per country in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania.


For more information about this project or to explore how your organisation can drive meaningful transformation, please contact:

Vincent Lassalle
Team Lead, Expanding Agency



Feature Image: Jan Ziegler / iStock.