Megatrends Shaping African Food Systems

Perspectives in Global Development: Spring 2023 Seminar Series


The transformation to sustainable and resilient food systems will require African agriculture to become more inclusive, productive, and profitable. As the global economy becomes more complex and dynamic, African governments and development partners can be more effective by better anticipating future opportunities and emerging challenges to proactively prepare for them rather than merely reacting to them. This seminar highlights six megatrends shaping the development of agrifood systems in Africa that warrant greater attention by stakeholders. They comprise: (1) rural population growth and associated rising land scarcity; (2) rapidly-rising urban populations fueling a rapid rise in local demand for food, and improved market access conditions for farmers in areas formerly considered remote; (3) economic transformation with main features including rising wage rates and per capita incomes; (4) climate change and increasing incidence of extreme weather events; (5) increasingly common global pandemics, civil conflicts, and economic disruptions; and (6) accelerated pace of technical innovation in digital agriculture. The seminar highlights a summary of each of these megatrends, their consequences, and priorities for intervention. The seminar is primarily based on Chapter 1 of the 2022 African Agriculture Status Report.

About the speaker

Dr. Ed Mabaya is a scholar and a development practitioner with more than two decades of experience working on development, agribusiness value chains and food security issues with a regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. He is a Research Professor in the Department of Global Development at Cornell University where his teaching, research and outreach work focuses on economic development in Africa. Additionally, Mabaya serves as Director of the Humphrey Fellowship Program, a Fulbright exchange program that provides accomplished professionals from countries with emerging economies an international enrichment opportunity in leadership and public service at Cornell. He also has an appointment as Professor Extraordinary in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

From 2018 through June 2020 he was the Division Manager of Agribusiness Development at the African Development Bank where he managed continent-wide investments, partnerships and research in support of the Feed Africa strategy. Previously, he was a Senior Research Associate in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

Mabaya’s applied research work is anchored around food marketing and distribution, enabling environments for agribusiness, seed systems, digital agriculture, and the role of efficient agricultural markets in Africa’s economic development. He has published widely on these topics in both peer reviewed outlets and popular press media. His work has received many distinguished recognitions including for “42 African Innovators to Watch in 2016” by Ventures Africa magazine, Coca Cola Africa Diaspora Network 2013 recognition for “dedicated service and contribution towards sustainable development in Africa” and the 2006 and 2017 L.A. Potts Success Story awards for “program with model resulting in high impact on poor communities”. He is a public speaker who has presented several keynote talks including TEDx-MidAtlantic and TEDx-Johannesburg.

Mabaya earned his MSc (1998) and PhD (2003) degrees in agricultural economics at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science (1994) from the University of Zimbabwe. He is the outgoing President of African Association of Agricultural Economists (2017-2019). Mabaya was an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow (2007) and The Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellow (2016).

About the seminar series

The Perspectives in Global Development seminars are held Wednesdays from 12:25 – 1:15 p.m. eastern time during the semester. The series will be presented in a hybrid format with some speakers on campus and others appearing via Zoom. All seminars are shown in Emerson Hall 135. Students, faculty and the general public are welcome to attend. The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Global Development, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the School of Integrative Plant Science as part of courses GDEV 4961, AEM 4961, NTRES 4961, GDEV 6960, AEM 6960, and NTRES 6960.

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