In the past couple of years, there has been resurgence in interest in smallholder agriculture as a potential driver for growth and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there remains considerable skepticism as to whether public investment in smallholder agriculture will lead to the desired growth and poverty reduction, given a general pessimism about "absorptive capacity" for (public) investment in Africa, the perception of failure of past agricultural investment and the observation that current conditions are unconducive to agricultural growth in Africa. This paper combines experiences of two UK-based NGOs dedicated to promoting smallholder agriculture and strengthening rural livelihoods in Africa with insights from academic literature on African agriculture and rural markets to set out an agenda for investment in smallholder agriculture in Africa. It identifies priorities for public investment, but also key issues related to "absorptive capacity" that need to be addressed if such investment is to succeed in generating agricultural growth and poverty reduction. Particular emphasis is placed on: a) investment in human and organisational capacity of smallholder farmers; b) investment in coordinated service provision to equip producers to respond to evolving market opportunities; c) the process of developing and implementing credible agricultural development strategies at both national and local level, and; d) reform of Ministries of Agriculture to support this process.