When you think about income differences across the world, Africa is really depressing. It seems nothing is making a lasting impact in terms of policy for it to catch up with the others, and seeing how Asia managed to transform itself makes you wonder what is fundamentally wrong. While one may think this has to do with misguided policies, so much has been tried that something ought to have stuck. But no. One thing that helped Asia is that evolution in rice brought an agricultural revolution that freed human resources for manufacturing, so could such a revolution also happen in Africa?
Donald Larson, Keijiro Otsuka, Kei Kajisa, Jonna Estudillo and Aliou Diagne claim that several areas in Africa are suitable for rice, but local diets and tastes are too diverse for rice to have the success it had in Asia. The productivity of other crops needs to improve as well. So it does not look like there is a ready-made solution that will kick-start the agricultural revolution soon, despite some very localized successes.
That said, why insist of improving agriculture on a continent that is visibly not appropriate for this? Much like telecommunications in Africa jumped over landlines directly to mobile telephony, why not bypass agricultural development straight to manufacturing? One argument against this is the large transportation costs that make local agriculture essential and manufacturing away from the ports unprofitable. But why insist on keeping the population on the countryside? Why not develop coastal cities and take advantage from returns to scale there, like Singapore and Hong Kong did, and