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Given What We Don’t Know, Why Do We Act Like We Know?

Most of American agriculture sees Africa as one vast nation and one vast market. It is, of course, neither.

Africa, in fact, has more nations (54), more languages (over 2,000), and more cultures (3,000-plus), than any other continent on Earth. It’s also the world’s second largest and second most populous continent with three times the population and twice the area as North America.

Moreover, Africa is a shrinking market for U.S. ag exports. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the “average compound growth” of U.S. ag sales to sub-Saharan Africa–all the African nations that do not touch the Mediterranean Sea–was a negative 1.5 percent from 2012 through 2021.

That means the three-year average U.S. export value to sub-Saharan nations fell from $2.4 billion in 2012 to $2.1 billion in 2021.

So, yes, most in American agriculture are mostly wrong on most things African.

Which begs the question, given our broad ignorance of Africa, why do we still think we know what’s best for this culturally rich, incredibly diverse, enormous continent’s farm and food sectors?