Addressing key Issues for the Future of Agriculture at the European Development Days 2017

CTA at the European Development Days 2017

Addressing key Issues for the Future of Agriculture: Youth, Women and Trade

Agriculture and sustainable economic development in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries were the focus of five panel debates held during the European Development Days. Over twenty speakers representing leading policymakers, women entrepreneurs, young agribusiness innovators and trade experts presented the case for streamlining regulation, implementation of inclusive policies and increased technical support to create jobs, modernise agriculture and strengthen public and private sector capacities in ACP countries.

The European Development Days 2017 took place under the theme of “Investing in Development”, and the five debate sessions in which CTA participated looked at successful approaches, innovations and partnerships for delivering a more prosperous agricultural sector in ACP countries. Altogether, the five sessions were delivered before packed rooms. In addition to more than 400 participants, the events gathered a significant online audience following the coverage live on Twitter; there were over 274 visitors to the online page for the debate, and over 900 liked and retweeted tweets related to the EDD.

In her opening address during for first session, President Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim of the Republic of Mauritius captured the key themes and issues addressed by the five panels: “Meaningful intra-ACP trading opportunities need to be developed and consolidated where they already exist. To achieve this, the ACP economies must keep on their diversification efforts. One of the areas of focus would be agribusiness for small-scale farmers through improved productivity and processing…The agricultural sector has the potential to create jobs through entrepreneurship if they are supported by ICT infrastructure and technology as well as post-harvest logistics. Exports will be boosted if there is a reduction of technical barriers to trade.”

Agricultural transformation and sustainable development – linkages and opportunities

The opportunities for agriculture to play a transformational role in achieving sustainable development were presented by the high-level panel of the session on Innovative agriculture for next generation farms. Combining perspectives from the private sector and international organisations, the speakers emphasised the need to scale up the development, availability and uptake of appropriate technologies in agriculture, as the sector is not reaching its full potential in many developing countries, particularly in Africa. Small-scale farmers and youth should be especially positioned to capitalise on the gains that technology can provide.

“Taking the case of Africa, both in terms of the SDGs and the Malabo declaration there is a huge expectation from agriculture in terms of creating employment and in terms of addressing food and nutrition,” noted CTA’s Michael Hailu during the session, “so technology, especially ICTs and data, are enablers in making sure that this happens. The question is how to scale this up, how to make it sustainable, and how to support youth and farmers to ow the data.”

Youth in agribusiness and women entrepreneurs – key pillars for jobs, growth and innovation

Job creation and value addition are two big areas of concern in ACP countries, as it is imperative to translate economic growth into opportunities for youth and sustainable and inclusive development which reduces poverty and inequality. The agricultural presents the strongest opportunities for countries to contribute to these objectives, but it is a sector which is challenged by low investment, and often also a poor image.

The EDD sessions on Youth in Agribusiness and Women entrepreneurs presented important lessons for policymakers and the private sector to support inclusive investment into the agricultural sector, based on the experience of successful agropreneurs and public-private partnerships.

Investment into innovation and value addition should be among the top priorities of agribusiness entrepreneurs, argued Dalitso Luke Mbewe, Director of Tapera Bio Industries in Zambia and Lovin Kobusingye, Managing Director of Kati Farms in Uganda. Speaking in the Youth and Women sessions respectively, they were also very emphatic about the need to develop a successful business model which can be sustained without the support of donors and the government.

Enhancing and enabling partnerships between entrepreneurs and producers is critical, as in the case of Kati Farms, which was developed in cooperation with a local fisheries co-operative. During the session on Women, Marie-Joseph Medzeme Engama, Expert on agricultural value chains for the Central Africa farmer’s organisation (PROPAC) also emphasised the importance of co-operatives in enabling cassava producers in Cameroon, SOCOOPMATPA, to move up the value chain and successfully enter into markets that are more profitable.

ICT is also playing a transformational role in helping to create jobs, spurring agricultural innovation and supporting greater participation of youth and women in the economy. Vanessa Erogbogbo, Head of Women and Trade Programme at the International Trade Centre (ITC), spoke at the session on women about SheTrades, an online digital platform which enables women entrepreneurs and women led businesses to trade, network and transact with thousands of others on the platform. Martin Stimela, the Managing Director, ‎Brastorne Enterprises, Bostwana discussed how ICT enabled him to come from a non-agricultural background and eventually develop an award winning mobile application, mAgri, which allows farmers, producers and traders to access up to date information by mobile, make transactions for sales and purchases, and also share news and developments affordably.

Access to finance and development of skills and capacity for youth and women were noted as challenges which require targeted partnerships in order address. Speaking at the Youth session, Christiaan Rebergen, Director General for International Cooperation at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, argued in favour of greater investment by the private sector into skills development, capacity building and education of youth and entrepreneurs. In the Netherlands, this approach has helped to create a workforce that can respond to the needs of a dynamic and growing economy.

Business incubation is also emerging as a popular and cost effective approach to improve the skills of entrepreneurial youth and help their start-ups to access finance and grow. This was shown by Alieu Jallow, Founder of the Gambia Young Entrepreneurs Association and EDD Young Leader, whose most successful incubatee has been a young agribusiness entrepreneur in the poultry sector. Heike Rüttgers, Head of Division, Development & Impact Finance in the EIB, emphasised the importance for lending institutions to include gender mainstreaming in their activities during the session on Women.

Inclusive and sustainable trade – leveraging regional and international opportunities

ACP countries are heading towards a new trade paradigm. On the one hand, regional trade opportunities are being aggressively pursued, particularly in Africa where the continent aims to establish a continental free trade area by 2017. On the other hand, Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU have been signed with many ACP regions, with fundamentally revise trading and investment terms between the two parties. This is in addition to efforts at sub-regional levels to eliminate or reduce barriers to trade, ranging from infrastructure investments to greater regulatory cooperation.

Policymakers, trade experts and leading EU officials discussed these and other ACP trade related issues at the EDD sessions first on Boosting Investment for ACP Inclusive Trade and Development, and second, on Promoting inclusive trade in Africa. Both panels delivered a strong message on the need to create an enabling business environment to encourage investment and enable SME’s to undertake more regional trade. Creating a conducive regulatory framework featured strongly as an issue that should be prioritised by policymakers in Africa to address the high levels of informal economic activity and reduce the volumes of capital flight from the region.

Stefano Manservisi, the European Commission’s Director General for International Cooperation and Development addressed this point directly during the session on Promoting inclusive trade in Africa. “Small scale trading in Africa is still the vast majority – 72% is in the informal economy…Working in the informal sector is not a choice, it is the result of a poor regulatory framework in which to do business.”

Frank Matsaert, CEO of TradeMark East Africa further elaborated on this issue, explaining how the simplified trading regime supported TradeMark East Africa helps to streamline cross border trade regulation, thus reducing the compliance costs borne by small traders, especially women.

“You have to have conditions in the regulatory environment for investment to take place”, noted Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development in the European Commission during the Boosting Investment for ACP session, adding that this applies especially towards stimulating domestic investment. Pamela Coke-Hamilton from the Caribbean Export Development Agency noted that best practices and lessons on investment promotion should be share more frequently among ACP regions and scaled up.

Standards play an important role in regional trade and exports to the EU. They were highlighted by many of panellists in the two trade sessions as a means for ACP countries to enhance integration – through the harmonisation of standards – and for producers to move up the value chain, either through compliance with voluntary sustainability standards or through product differentiation.

Hermogene Nsengimana CEO of the African Organisation for Standardisation and Masego Marobela, Managing Director of Botswana Bureau of Standards explained that efforts that were taking place at the regional levels in Africa to harmonise standards, to create regional centres of excellence for standards and to develop more collaboration with partners, particularly the private sector and other international standard setting bodies. Janet Ngombalu from the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) noted that the private sector and producers can take advantage of standards in order to be more competitive and also promote value addition and regional trade, as has been the case with grain producers in Eastern Africa.

Leveraging EU investment for inclusive growth and sustainable development

EU support and priorities were discussed at numerous points during the five sessions. Koen Doens, Director East and Southern Africa and ACP coordination, European Commission – DG for International Cooperation and Development noted that in the context of the EPAs, the EU was keen to focus its efforts in supporting ACP countries to build their capacity to add value and produce goods that can be traded, echoing the statements made earlier by Mr Ridolfi. These efforts would form a significant portion of the EU’s recently launched External Investment Plan, which aims to de-risk investment into Africa through three pillars: the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD); technical assistance for broader policy environment to help attract investors and engage the private sector; and programmes to improve the investment climate and the overall policy environment.

A clear focus of these investment programmes will lie in supporting employment creation and decent jobs, particularly for youth and women. In this regard, the European Commission’s Leonard Mizzi also highlighted that that many of the best solutions to the challenges faced by Africa come from local entrepreneurs and the private sector, so the EU will support funding instruments to scale up research and innovation and agricultural funding opportunities.

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