Agriculture is the backbone of Africa. Among other things, low productivity is one of the major difficulties that Africa is facing. Increasing agricultural productivity can increase food availability and access as well as rural incomes. Although Africa has experienced growth in the agriculture sector, the growth has emanated from area expansion rather than increases in land productivity. In most Sub-Saharan African countries, where suitable area for new cultivation is in decline, future sustainable agricultural growth will require a greater emphasis on productivity growth, particularly given growing concerns about deforestation and climate change.

Increasing agricultural productivity in Africa thus calls for broader policy and strategic frameworks that encompass agro-industrial and agribusiness services along with farming. The agricultural system’s transformation will have the most impact when innovators have the explicit perspective that the Green Revolution and agro-industrial and agribusiness development must go hand-in-hand. This perspective will result in innovations that reduce poverty through broad-based economic growth, which includes enhanced food security, employment creation, and added value and wealth across the economy’s farming and nonfarming sectors.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in conjunction with the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), will facilitate an international conference from 1–3 November 2011 titled “Increasing Agricultural Productivity and Enhancing Food Security in Africa: New Challenges and Opportunities” at the Africa Hall, UNECA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference will include plenary and parallel sessions, discussions of conference papers, and moderated panel discussions of specific issues. After the conference, a synopsis report and policy briefs on the key issues and solutions discussed at the conference will be produced. Following that, the papers presented will be adapted and compiled in a book on strategies to increase agricultural productivity in Africa for enhancing food and nutrition security and rural incomes. Representatives of regional, national, and international organizations, including farmer and trader organizations, as well as farmers, researchers, policymakers, academics, and members of the private sector will participate in this conference.