Brussels Briefing 48: Rural – Urban linkages in Africa
Opportunities for inclusive economic growth and agricultural transformation

Experts and policymakers will discuss “Strengthening rural livelihoods in the face of rapid urbanisation in Africa” at the 48th Brussels Development Briefing on Monday 20th March 2017, organised by CTA with BMZ/GIZ, the European Commission – DG DEVCO, Concord and the ACP Secretariat. This event will explore best practices, successful approaches and public and private sector opportunities that respond to the urgent need to transform Africa’s rural economies to increase productivity and create employment in the context of increasing urbanisation and changes to patterns in food consumption.

Urban scenes in Accra market. Image:  K. Pratt / FAO

It is estimated that by 2050, Africa will see its population double to 2.2 billion people, with the proportion of Africans living in rural areas falling to only 43%, down from 61% in 2010. However, the absolute number of people living in rural areas will actually increase from 622 million to 927 million (Proctor and Lucchesi). Only 10% of Africans are in formal employment, and the clear majority of labour in Africa is still informal, and particularly concentrated in the agricultural sector. Farming is the source of 60% to 80% of rural incomes, with the share of non-farm income gaining in importance. There are only 3 million formal jobs available for the 10 to 12 million African youth entering the workforce each year, and two thirds of the labour force increase over the next 20 years is projected to occur in rural areas.

The growing significance of cities and the fading rural-urban divide should not be a reason or a pretext to neglect our rural areas. They require just as much ongoing attention from policy-makers as our urban centres, for a multitude of reasons,” said Stefan Schmitz, Commissioner for the One World – No Hunger initiative at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

This presents a challenge on three fronts: first, how to meet the demand for jobs and income generating opportunities, especially for youth in rural and peri-urban areas; second, how to speed up the transformation of agricultural production in Africa in response to this urban expansion and dietary changes among the growing middle class; and third, how to ensure that this demographic transition results in inclusive and sustainable development for both rural and urban areas, which reinforces productive linkages across key sectors – agriculture, services and manufacturing. These issues are especially relevant in the context of the global Agenda 2030, which calls on all development stakeholders, including the private sector, to contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals that ensure food and nutrition security (SDG2), inclusive growth and decent productive work (SDG8) and sustainable cities and communities (SDG11).

Opportunities to scale up on-going efforts towards structural transformation in Africa (e.g. CAADP, Agenda 2063) through more efficient, productive and inclusive urban-rural linkages are abundant. This Briefing presents a good opportunity to draw on lessons learnt and to identify factors for success in approaches which have produced positive results. The widespread use of new technologies – particularly ICTs including mobile phones – is a good example. Rural areas have benefited from a growth in non-farm incomes, smart innovations and greater connectivity with markets through digital platforms. CTA has been actively working to promote ICT innovations for agriculture, especially by identifying and encouraging talented young ICT entrepreneurs to engage in agriculture.

 “The greatest opportunity for transforming African agriculture into a highly productive and profitable sector that creates value for smallholder producers and jobs for young people will come from establishing strong rural-urban linkages essential to meet the rapidly growing demand of urban consumers for fresh and processed foods,” said Michael Hailu, Director of CTA.

Infographic:  SPORE Magazine No. 176 Marketing and packaging: the retail revolution

Another key development has been the recognition by policymakers across Africa and internationally about the need to promote private sector participation to catalyse rural transformation and develop inclusive value chains. In this context, the African Development Bank, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank have launched financing mechanisms which seek to reduce the risk of private investment in the agricultural sector in Africa. These include programmes that leverage finance in a way that encourages private sector development in Africa, particularly for micro- and small and medium sized enterprises and youth entrepreneurs, and others which establish public-private partnerships that aim to tackle bigger structural issues, including poor infrastructure, access to energy and access to finance.

The transformation will be driven by the investment decisions taken by millions of private-sector stakeholders: small farmers, input providers, food processing firms, distributors, financial service companies, craft and trade enterprises, and many others. However, the pace and composition of this private investment will depend on the enabling environment created by governments,” said Stefan Schmitz, Commissioner for the One World – No Hunger initiative, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

This Briefing discuss latest trends in research, the dynamics driving demographic shifts, the key policy responses seeking to mitigate risks and promote sustainable rural growth, and the innovative approaches of the private sector, producers and youth entrepreneurs capturing the gains that rural-urban linkages present.

Registration is now open for the Briefing, which will take place at the ACP Secretariat (Avenue Georges Henri 451, 1200 Brussels, Room C):

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