Journal Article


Systems of innovation theory and the changing architecture of agricultural research in Africa

Published on 1 February 2005

This paper examines the on-going evolution of the organisational architecture of agricultural research in Africa. Once considered a rural backwater populated by agronomists, extension agents and farmers, agricultural research is now being explicitly placed within global debates about innovation, technology, institutions and development.

This is reflected in a growing interest in the use of systems of innovation theory to both understand and reform innovation processes within agriculture. The basic argument put forward in the paper is that the conception of a global agricultural research system, and associated efforts to create a coordinated, multi-layered, supra-national research infrastructure, are at odds with both the realities of research at national level, and the bio-physical and socio-economic heterogeneity that characterises rural Africa. It is suggested that a less directive approach to support for agricultural research is required to allow national characteristics and differences to come to the fore, and to give more room for the development of the all important demand-side.


Image of James Sumberg

James Sumberg

Emeritus Fellow

Publication details

published by
Sumberg, J.
Food Policy, volume 30, issue 1