Realizing the Potential of African Agriculture: Catalytic Innovations Across Agricultural Value Chains

Agricultural Innovation in Africa - a panel - Feb 27, 2014

Contextual changes characterized by the globalization of agricultural value chains, rising income, and rapid urbanization not only influence patterns of consumption, competition, and trade but also drive agricultural development and innovation far more than before across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Agriculture increasingly occurs in a context where private entrepreneurs coordinate extensive value chains linking producers to consumers, sometimes across vast distances. More providers of knowledge are on the scene, particularly from the private sector and civil society, and they interact in new ways to generate ideas or develop responses to dynamics in agri-food value chains. A growing number of entrepreneurial smallholders are organizing to enter these value chains, but others struggle with the economic marginalization as innovative solutions do not reach them due to missing links in the value chains.

In this meeting of the University Seminar on Globalization, Governance and Development, convening on February 27 at 5:30pm, in Room 240 of the John Hope Franklin Center, a panel consisting of representatives from Duke University’s Center on Globalization, Governance, & Competitiveness (CGGC), Oxfam America, and Dutch Agricultural Development & Trading Company (DADTCO), will present conceptual frameworks, drawing on principles of Global Value Chain (GVC) and Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS), and current practices concerning agricultural innovations in SSA. The seminar is aimed to provide a forum involving academia, international development practitioners, and private sector to discuss how such innovative solutions can provide continent-wide models for inclusive development.

Background Reading


Ajmal Abdulsamad is a researcher at Duke University, Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) with over 11 years of project management and research experience working for international development organizations and the United Nations. Mr. Abdulsamad has led the research project “Realizing the Potential of African Agriculture: Innovations Across Agricultural Value Chains,” that Duke CGGC implemented in partnership with Oxfam America. His current research work includes “Burundi in the Agribusiness Global Value Chain: Skills for Private Sector Development,” funded by the World Bank.

Peter Bolt is Managing Director and founder of DADTCO. He is  the “intellectual architect” of the Autonomous Mobile Processing Unit (AMPU), which is now successfully operating in Nigeria, Mozambique and Ghana with the prospect of rolling out to 27 more countries. Mr. Bolt has been active in agriculture in Africa for most of his career. He started as a development worker but “felt that development work and daring to invest in people, was overtaken by politics”. Also in the private sector- delivering fertilizer to African countries- he noticed that short term gains was the overall target, which at the end of the day brings little or no prosperity to the farmers.” Therefore, he decided in 2002 to establish his own company that combines commerce and smallholder farmers’ development. His aim is to diminish the dependency on food imports by giving farmers realistic competitive markets for their products and at the same time guarantees that the production takes place in a sustainable and responsible way by using integrated soil fertility management systems (ISFM).

Kimberly Pfeifer is Head of Research at Oxfam America, where she oversees the production of research and trends analysis for policy, advocacy and campaign purposes. She has written a number of Oxfam International Policy Briefing Papers focused on trade and agricultural issues, and has managed numerous research projects, including on issues of biotechnology, agriculture, food security, trade, extractive industries, and economic inequality.  She serves as the editor of Oxfam America’s Research Backgrounder series.

Prior to joining Oxfam, Kimberly worked for the AFL-CIO as a researcher with the Center for Strategic Research. She has also worked for the Aga Khan Foundation in Zanzibar, Tanzania. While in Tanzania, Kimberly held a Research Fellowship with the Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam.  She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Political Science and African Studies. She has a number of publications and papers critiquing models of development, and on land and natural resource politics.

Gary Gereffi is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) at Duke University. Dr. Gereffi’s expertise is economic development, business-government relations, competitive strategies of global firms, and the governance of global value chains. Dr. Gereffi has published numerous books and articles on globalization, industrial upgrading, and social and economic development, and he is one of the originators of the global commodity chain and global value chain frameworks.

His major ongoing research related to agricultural development and food security includes:

  1. “A Global Value Chain Analysis of Food Security and Food Staples in the Energy-Exporting Countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region,” funded by the Minerva Initiative (U.S. Dept. of Defense) (2012-2015);
  2. work with the World Bank and the African Development Bank on export competitiveness and workforce development in global and regional food and agricultural value chains, with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa.


The University Seminar on Globalization, Governance and Development is organized by the Duke University Center for International Studies, this event is co-sponsored by the Duke Africa Initiative. Attendance is free and open to the public.