Generating 35% of regional GDP, the food economy is the largest economic sector in West Africa, both in terms of employment and value creation. Nearly 100 million West Africans (2 out of 3 employed people) depend on it for their livelihood. Food systems are transforming rapidly, paving the way for a “quiet revolution” presenting new opportunities and challenges. Policies will play a major role in building durable food systems that ensure food and nutrition security, generate livelihoods and are environmentally sustainable. Through its partnerships, SWAC contributes to this agenda, producing data and analysis and engaging in policy dialogue to develop a common understanding of the transformation of regional food systems and the factors that shape them.
The latest report in the West African Papers series analyses the costs of healthy diets in 17 countries in the Sahel and West Africa and which food groups drive up costs.
Food systems are central to our lives, our well-being and our societies. This is particularly true in the Sahel and West Africa, where the majority of the population makes its living from food-related activities. The most recent issue of the Maps & Facts series focuses on food system transformations and the implications for people and policies in the region. Read
The regional food economy, the biggest employer in West Africa, is projected to reach USD 480 billion in 2030 with the non-agricultural sector expected to represent 49% of the value added. As a result, demand for labour in off-farm activities mainly in urban areas — processing, marketing and other services such as food-away-from-home — is growing. These activities have the potential to generate decent and permanent jobs especially for youth and women. About 68% of all employed women work in the food economy.
In partnership with the Dakar-based think tank Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR), the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) conducted a survey of 700 producers, processors, traders as well as youth and women in the Niayes region in Senegal in order to produce new data and to better understand the local food economy and employment dynamics in the region. The survey also aimed to better understand the employment opportunities offered to youth and women, their constraints and their aspirations. The final report will be available in spring 2021 and the first results are presented here.
Women play crucial roles in the West African food economy. We use social network analysis to study how women operate within food systems. The report focuses on the Dendi region (Benin, Niger, Nigeria) to identify constraints faced by women rice traders and propose innovative ways to empower them. This work is carried out in partnership with research centres, notably through a memorandum of understanding with the University of Florida’s Sahel Research Group.
The food economy is intimately connected to urban growth which, in West Africa, in happening at a rapid pace. Indeed, driven by urbanisation, the food economy is transforming quickly and it is the largest economic sector in the region. This blog discusses the nature of the ongoing transformations and how they should be taken into account in public policy and governance.
The food economy in West Africa represents 260 billion USD or 35% of GDP, and is transforming rapidly because of urbanisation. The report measures urban and rural employment in food systems, both on- and off-farm. It assesses the job creation potential of food systems for youth and women in particular.
Youth employment is a top priority on development agendas in West Africa as a growing numbers of young people struggle to access decent jobs in the region. Given the strong potential of the food economy to accelerate job creation, it should have the focus the policymakers. This blog looks at the opportunities for policymakers to address the challenge of decent job creation in food systems in West Africa.
Strategies to fight hunger often focus on identifying food crises rather than longer-term trends. This report uses data from the Demographic and Health Surveys to document the “double-burden” of under- and over-nutrition in West Africa. It underlines the need to develop better food security and nutrition metrics in urban settings.
Integrating gender dimensions into early warning systems is critical to support equitable crisis prevention and response. This paper investigates the extent to which food and nutrition security early warning systems (FNS EWS) in the Sahel and West Africa are gender-responsive and highlights existing gaps at national and regional levels. It provides timely policy directions to support stakeholders’ efforts in strengthening the gender-responsiveness of early warning systems in the Sahel and West Africa.
Find out more
- The Cost of High Food Prices in West Africa (working paper)
- West African Food Systems and Changing Consumer Demands (working paper)
- Emerging Opportunities in the West African Food Economy (working paper)
- Mapping Women's Trade Networks and Identifying Policy Solutions (brochure)
- Agriculture, food and jobs in West Africa (brochure)
- Transformations in the food economy & implications for policy making (brochure)
- Settlement, Market and Food Security (publication)
- Blog: Food prices must drop in Africa: How can this be achieved? (blog)