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In many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, potato plays an important role as a food security crop. Yet, technological improvements to boost potato productivity have so far not been extensively utilized. Moreover, it remains unclear which potential impacts can be expected from future technological innovations in potato production in the region.
To shed light on this question, a scenario of the development and diffusion of improved potato varieties for nine countries in Eastern and Central Africa is developed and assessed. The scenario involves varieties which combine a number of improvements in pro-poor, productivity enhancing traits and is analysed using an economic partial equilibrium model of the world agricultural sector.
Taking into account spill over effects across markets and countries, the analysis finds positive net welfare effects at the global level, ranging from 60 m US$ to 403 m US$. Global returns on investment are positive between 20% and 37%. Effects of the intervention on potato supply in the target countries range from 0.5% to 8.5%. Potato producers in these countries are found to benefit, but producers of other commodities and in other countries beyond the region are negatively affected. Lower market prices for potatoes and other commodities lead to welfare gains to consumers worldwide and in the region. At the level of the target countries, the improved potato varieties are found to generate returns on investment between 20% and over 70%, depending mainly on the level of adoption.
The analysis shows that investing in crop improvement and variety development for Sub-Saharan Africa can be a worthwhile undertaking with returns that easily justify intervention. However, it also highlights the importance of variety diffusion for the intra-regional distribution and the magnitude of the impacts and suggests putting emphasis in seed systems development to promote quick dissemination and high adoption levels.