More than a dozen African countries will hold elections in the year 2024, and on a continent plagued by a range of issues – from the high import bill of agriculture products to inflation to conflicts – sitting and aspiring political leaders have their plates full.

Experts are watching how this will influence the continent’s food production sectors.

That agriculture is a big deal in Africa is stating the obvious, yet political candidates have preached economic rebirth without specific reference to which agriculture policies will spur that growth.

For example, in South Africa, where national polls are scheduled for later in the year, analysts have noted that persistent power outages have adversely affected agriculture production.

However, determined farmers are turning to their own resources to power their agriculture projects, and this is where investment in renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar energy, is making a difference. Yet, that has not been replicable on a wider scale as such infrastructure requires deep pockets.

Also of concern for South African farmers is broader agriculture infrastructure, such as dams and irrigation, with analysis from some banks noting that these issues have remained unresolved as the country approaches elections.

“Underlying infrastructure issues are unlikely to be addressed, as paralysis in an election year will mean limited progress,” John Hudson wrote in a Nedbank analysis in November.

Neighbouring Botswana will also hold elections in the coming months, but the small Southern African country is not known for a vibrant agriculture sector, “due to the Kalahari Desert that occupies a large area of the country, “as described by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The country relies instead on its famed tourism and diamond mining. According to official statistics, Botswana’s agriculture sector takes up three percent of the country’s GDP and has attracted little attention during the campaign platforms of political parties. However, the country is known for its animal husbandry and beef exports, and agriculture policies could have a bearing on its forex earnings and how locals are encouraged to upscale cattle ranching and poultry farming.

In Algeria, where polls are also scheduled for later in the year, agriculture accounts for about a third of the country’s economic sector where onions, potatoes, watermelons, and wheat are among some of the biggest agricultural products.

Like many African countries, however, agriculture is not a major talking point, with contentious issues such as immigration hogging political campaigns. To highlight Algeria’s reliance on food imports, Russia announced that it is eyeing USD 1,5 billion in agriculture exports to Algeria by 2030, at a time when the common sentiment across the global food production debate is that Africa should cut its food import bill and produce its own food.

In Ghana, where elections are also expected this year, local critics have commented that the country will continue seeking aid from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund until Ghana “prioritises agriculture”.

From such sentiments, it is apparent that on the campaign trail, agriculture is on the periphery of national political discourse. The World Bank says poor markets and transport are some of the issues that have stifled Ghana’s agricultural growth. How political parties address this remains to be seen.

Mozambique, too, holds elections this year, and in a country ravaged by years of civil conflict, agencies say this has affected the agriculture sector where up to 36 million hectares of land is suitable for agriculture.

Despite that potential, only ten percent of that land is cultivated. The USAID says “Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of Mozambique’s economy, contributing more than a quarter of its GDP and employing 80 percent of its labour force. The overwhelming majority of producers are subsistence farmers”.

How elections will shape Mozambique’s agriculture also remains to be seen, but what is clear is that subsistence farmers remain on the agenda for finance in a country where resources are scarce and must compete with reconstruction, public health, and defence among others.

In Rwanda, where economic stability and economic growth have been praised, the country heads to elections at a time when there are concerns that agriculture remains underfunded.

Last year there were calls to increase the sector’s budget by 10 percent to ensure “that Rwandans have access to enough food” in line with the 2014 Malabo Agreement.

As African countries prepare for elections, observers will be watching how the agriculture sector is prioritised and how food production budgets are allocated in the hierarchy of needs.