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African farm systems are the least mechanized of all continents. This is a concern, since low levels of mechanization are associated with low levels of labor productivity, a key determinant of farmers’ incomes. However, with the re-emergence of agriculture on Africa’s development agenda, there is now renewed interest in agricultural mechanization. Governments aim overcoming “hoe and cutlass” types of farming to make agriculture attractive to the youth; donors are increasingly funding mechanization-related projects and machinery companies have discovered Africa as an emerging market. The renewed interest in agricultural mechanization has been fueled by increasing evidence that access to labor limits development for many smallholder farmers. Indeed, studies suggest that farmers benefit from agricultural mechanization, for example, by being able to increase their incomes. However, there are still ample open questions, since African agricultural mechanization has long been neglected by scholars. This leaves policymakers and practitioners ill-equipped to design good policies and programs. These open questions include: What are the best options for the mechanization of smallholder production and processing systems from economic and institutional perspectives? What is the role of the private sector and which role should the state play? What knowledge and skills are needed to promote mechanization? What are the effects of mechanization on rural employment?

Published as FARA Research Report Volume 5 No: 17 (2020).