Publication [ID: 119]

Agriculture, food and jobs in West Africa


Food economy accounts for nearly two-thirds of the total employment in West Africa. The newly released OECD publication “Agriculture, food and jobs in West Africa” examines the major trends of this job market and key spatial implications for the sector shaped by increasing urbanisation, population and income growth. The paper offers advice on what aspects to consider while designing targeted employment strategies, relevant for the rural youth and women.


Why is off-farm labour demand growing?

The paper first gives an overview of the food employment in the region. Agriculture remains the most significant employer there. However, the share of the off-farm activities and jobs in food related production and services is increasing. The major drivers behind this transformation are increased urbanisation and rising incomes. The local diets are shifting respectively: the demand for more diverse and convenient to prepare foods is rising. People increasingly rely on markets for purchasing food. These changes drive the labour demand in the off-farm sector. According to the publication, this trend in labour demand will become even more pronounced, as the food economy becomes more specialised and diversified.


The West African Papers series explores African socio-economic, political and security dynamics from a regional and multidisciplinary perspective. It seeks to stimulate discussion and gather information to better anticipate the changes that will shape future policies. The series is designed for a wide audience of specialists, development practitioners, decision makers and the informed public. Initiated by the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) to highlight and promote West African issues, the work presented is prepared by its Secretariat, Members and partners, other OECD departments, related international organisations, associated experts and researchers.

Systems approach: a way to uncover employment and production potential

The role of the food economy as the major employer in the region makes it a key leverage point for providing for decent livelihoods in the rural areas. According to the OECD paper, the future jobs strategies in the region, in particular for youth and women, need to integrate a systems approach that builds upon the links between agricultural productivity, off-farm employment, as well as rural and urban areas. The authors of the publication believe that to develop the untapped employment and production potential in the food economy, the deeper understanding of the food system is needed. The first crucial steps to gain this understanding would involve identifying where this potential is highest and why, how to remove obstacles to entry for women and youth, and developing the projections for labour’s exit from agriculture.


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