Africa The forgotten continent - Patterns and dynamics of the African egg industry

Part 1: Laying hen inventory and egg production

PROF. I. R. Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst

Keywords: Africa; egg industry; laying hens; laying hen inventories; global egg industry; egg production

Analyses, dealing with the development and patterns of the global egg industry in most cases focus on Europe, North America and Eastern Asia. With the exception of a few countries, Africa and Oceania are not in the centre of scientific research. In two papers, the obvious gap will be filled. The first paper will deal with the laying hen inventories and egg production, the second will document the patterns in the five African sub regions.


The imbalance between the continents

Table 1 documents the imbalance between the share of the continents in the global population, the laying hen inventories and in egg production. Asia was the dominating continent; it shared almost 60% in the global population and contributed about 60% to the global egg production in 2018. In contrast, Africa shared 16.7% in the global population but contributed only 4.2% to the global egg production volume. Europe together with Central and South America had almost the same population as Africa, but shared 22.7% in global egg production.

Table 1:
The share of the continents in the global population, the laying hen inventories and in egg production in 2018; data in %
(Source: FAO database)

*Canada, Mexico, USA


Considerable differences in the dynamics of the laying hen inventories

Between 2008 and 2018, the laying hen inventory in Africa increased from 455.1 mill. to 518.2 mill. heads or by 18.9%. The relative growth rate was not much lower than that at the global level with 19.4%. A closer look at the situation at country level reveals, however, considerable differences. In the ten leading countries, as documented in Table 2, the inventories grew by only 11.1% because of a considerable decline of the inventories in Nigeria and South Africa. In the other eight countries, the number of laying hens increased between 18.9% (Kenya) and 96.1% (Morocco). The highest absolute growth in the laying hen inventory in the analysed decade showed Morocco with 32.2 mill. hens, followed by Egypt with 5.7 mill. heads and Tunisia with 5.1 mill. heads. Nigeria´s layer flock decreased by 20.6 mill. heads or 16.2%, South Africa´s inventory by 7.4 mill. or 10.9%. Avian Influenza outbreaks hit both countries (OIE 2017) and caused the drastic decline of the inventories. In addition to the disease problem, the shortage of one-day-old chicks, a low feed quality and the lack of a qualified veterinary system led to high mortality rates. Political and economic instability also had negative impacts on the development of the poultry industry (FAO 2018). The massive outbreaks in South Africa resulted in a loss of several million birds. One major problem in the dissemination of the virus were ostrich farms. The ostriches carried the virus but did not show clinical signs and caused the spread to almost 100 poultry farms. Several other countries were also affected by highly pathogenic AI strains, which were first detected in Africa in 2006 and then spread very fast to many countries.

Table 2 shows that despite the high losses Nigeria still ranked in first position in 2018 but lost 7.4% of its share in 2008. South Africa lost 2.0% while Morocco gained 5.3%. The composition and ranking did not change very much between 2008 and 2018. Morocco replaced South Africa in second position and Ghana was substituted by Benin. The decreasing inventories in Nigeria and South Africa resulted in a decline of the regional concentration from 71.2% in 2008 to 69.5% in 2018.

The Avian Influenza virus is an ongoing threat to the African poultry industry. Initiatives to increase the biosecurity at farm level are of only limited success because of the low education of many small farmers and the lack of capital for necessary investments.

Table 2:
The ten African countries with the highest laying hen inventory in 2008 and 2018
(Source: FAO database)

High regional concentration in egg production

Egg production in Africa increased by 594,500 t between 2008 and 2018 and reached a volume of 3.2 mill. t, a share of 4.2% in the global production. The relative growth rate of 22.1 % was about 2.3 % lower than at the global level. This is an indicator for the problem of many African countries to keep up with the dynamical development in other continents.

In the ten leading countries, egg production grew by 438,000 t or 20.8%, indicating a slower growth in several countries than the continent´s average. The only country with a decline in production was Nigeria. Egg production fell by 99,600 t or 17.1%. Despite the loss of hen flocks, South Africa´s production volume increased by 27,600 t or 6.5%. The highest absolute growth in the analysed decade showed Morocco with 203,600 t, followed by Algeria with 129,600 t and Egypt with 98,800 t. In Morocco and Sudan, egg production more than doubled (Table 3). It is worth noting that five of the ten leading countries were located in Northern Africa, a result, which was to be expected considering the dynamics in the laying hen inventories. The extraordinary role of the ten leading countries in the dynamics of the African egg industry becomes clear from the fact that they contributed 73.7% to the growth of the continent´s egg production but only 57.2% to the increase of the laying hen inventory. Obviously, production in these countries was more efficient than in the other 43 countries. The regional concentration in egg production was also higher than in the laying hen population. While the ten leading countries contributed 79.5% to Africa´s production volume, they shared only 69.5 % in the laying hen population.

A comparison of the composition and ranking of the countries in 2008 and 2018 shows that Burkina Faso was replaced by Sudan and some changes in the ranking occurred. Egypt ousted South Africa from the second rank and Libya stepped from rank nine to rank eight. A comparison with the composition and ranking in Table 2 reveals some interesting differences. Egypt ranked only in fourth place regarding the hen inventory but in second regarding egg production. Burkina Faso and Benin were substituted by Libya and Sudan. The dynamical development in Egypt is worth noting as the country was severely affected by AI outbreaks from rom 2009 on and in particular between 2014 and 2016 (Kayali et al. 2016). The growth of the production volume since 2016 is a result of the efficient control of the dissemination of the virus and the improved biosecurity at farm level. Eggs were not only produced for the increasing domestic demand but also for exports. This was also the case in Morocco, which was able to control AI outbreaks, which hit the country from 2016 on, and increase egg production considerably.

Table 3:
The ten African countries with the highest egg production in 2008 and 2018
(Source: FAO database)


Egg production per hen – a measure for a country´s self-sufficiency with eggs?

Of the 53 independent African countries for which 2018 data on the laying hen inventories and on egg production were available, 31 belonged to the least developed countries according to the FAO classification. For most of the African countries, no reliable data on the laying rate of hens, the per capita egg consumption and the self-sufficiency rate with eggs were published in official statistics. Even many inventory and production data as published by the FAO were based on estimates.

Table 4: Egg production per laying hen in the ten leading AfricanCountries in 2018
(Source: Own calculations based on FAO data)

One way to get a first impression of the self-sufficiency is by calculating the egg production in kg per hen and year (Table 4). It has to be considered, however, that because of the lack of data for the per capita consumption the data can only give a first idea on the availability of eggs for the population. Assuming that for example that in Tanzania a laying hen in a backyard flock would produce 6.7 kg eggs per year would mean that at an average egg weight of 52 g 129 eggs would be available per person and year. It is obvious that in several more developed countries in Northern Africa and in the threshold country South Africa the egg production per hen was higher than in the least developed countries Tanzania and Sudan. It can be assumed that the higher production per hen is an indicator for the use of hybrid hens in contrast to local breeds in the less and least developed countries.



The preceding paper presented a first picture of the dynamics and patterns of Africa´s egg industry. The wide gap between the continent´s share in the global population and in egg production could be documented impressively. It was also possible to show that the regional concentration in egg production was considerably higher than in the laying hen inventories, an indicator for the large differences in the efficiency of egg production. The Avian Influenza virus was and is a constant threat to the African egg industry and has severely affected several countries over the past decade. In addition, the political and economic instability in many countries, a fast growing population, low educational standards, the lack of qualified poultry veterinarians, low quality feed and the use of local breeds are factors that can explain the imbalance between Africa´s share in the world population and its contribution to global egg production. Great efforts will be necessary to improve the supply of eggs as a high value protein for the population.


Data source and additional literature

Fasanmi, O. G. et al.: Public health concerns of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 endemicity in Africa. In: Veterinary World 10 (2017), October, p. 1194-2004.
(Retrieved from, May 15th, 2020)

FAO (ed.): Livestock and Poultry Spotlight Nigeria. Rome 2018. (Retrieved from, May 18th, 2020)

Kayali, G. et al.: Avian Influenza A (H5N1) virus in Egypt. In: Emerging Infectious Diseases 22 (2016), no. 3, p. 379-388. (Retrieved from, May 19th, 2020))

OIE, World Organisation for Animal Health. Update on Avian Influenza in Animals (Types H5 and H7) 2017 (Retrieved from http://, May 19th, 2020).

Windhorst, H.-W.: The contrasting world of global egg production. In: Zootecnica international 42 (2020) (in preparation for printing).



Fotoquelle: Timo Lutz für WING,