If irrigated production is to make a significant contribution to food security and economic growth in Sub Saharan Africa, it will have to be re-structured across the region as a whole. This is the main conclusion of a study undertaken by FAO to analyse the drivers of demand for irrigated production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Steeply rising commercial food import bills for staple crops across SSA are indicative of the level demand that is not being met from domestic production. The increase of area under equipped/spate irrigation for the whole of Africa over the last ten years amounts to 1.27 million ha, which is equal to about 127 000 ha a year. This rate of growth has proved too low to have an impact on food import bills and buffer regional food security. However, within subregional trading groups there is scope for consolidation of market supply. Irrigated production opportunities in SSA could be realised where natural resources and markets coincide, but only through a great deal more attention to costs of production, price formation, effective water allocation mechanisms, economically efficient water use and strong, responsive institutions.