Highlights Brussels Briefing 48: Rural – Urban Linkages in Africa

Senior experts and policymakers presented important lessons and opportunities for African countries to strengthen linkages between rural and urban areas at a Brussels Briefing which took place on Monday 20th March 2017. The event, held under the title of “Strengthening rural livelihoods in the face of rapid urbanisation in Africa”, attracted a wide audience of over 130 participants representing the ACP and EU diplomatic and development communities present at the ACP Secretariat, and an online audience of over 100 following via Webstream.  It was organised by CTA, in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Development Agency (GIZ), the Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation of the European Commission (EC/DEVCO), the ACP Secretariat and Concord (the European NGO confederation for Relief and Development).

This debate, which comes at a time of increased focus on Africa’s demographic boom and rapid urbanisation, sought to consider the implications for rural jobs and youth, migration and economic transformation in the continent. Employment, especially for youth, agricultural transformation, and the use of peri-urban areas and small intermediary cities as service hubs emerged as the dominant talking points of the Briefing.

The discussions pointed out the importance of infrastructure to link rural, peri-urban and urban areas, particularly the construction of good roads that can reduce transportation costs and promote development of the off-farm economy. Furthermore, a strong emphasis was placed on the need to make rural transformation inclusive through the right policy interventions and finance mechanisms.

Several examples of successes from producers, young entrepreneurs, researchers and policy makers highlighted new opportunities for value-chain actors in the context of urbanisation and stronger rural-urban linkages. Of significance in terms of emerging trends is the growing demand created by urban consumers, which offers new markets for farmers and entrepreneurs in fresh and processed foods.

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Brussels Briefing 48: “Strengthening rural livelihoods in the face of rapid urbanisation in Africa”

The Brussels Development Briefing no. 48 on “Strengthening rural livelihoods in the face of rapid urbanisation in Africa” took place on 20th March 2017 from 14:00 to 18:00, at the ACP Secretariat (Avenue Georges Henri 451, 1200 Brussels, Room C). This Briefing was co-organised by CTA, BMZ/GIZ, the ACP Secretariat, European Commission (DG DEVCO) and Concord .

**Twitter: share your ideas and questions using the hashtag #BB48 and follow @brubriefings **

Rural areas in many African countries are undergoing manifest transformation processes fuelled by dynamics such a population growth, urbanisation and increasing mobility. The relationship between rural and urban areas is changing and the rural-urban divide is fading, with increasing flows of people, goods and services between the two and the emergence of new migratory and livelihoods patterns. Next to the growth of capital and major cities, much of the urbanization witnessed in African countries has taken place in the continuum of rural areas with villages, towns and smaller cities below 500,000 inhabitants, fuelled in part by better infrastructure and digital connectivity as well as the search for economic opportunity. Rural towns and smaller cities have the potential to invigorate rural areas in their function as market hubs and basic service provision. Yet fulfilling such functions requires considerable investment and local institutional capacity as well as clear political commitment.  Strengthening rural-urban linkages in terms of infrastructure, transport, market access and exchange of information, ideas and innovation can catalyse economic development in rural areas and provide future perspectives for rural population and especially youth. Rural development strategies should therefore consider some of the following opportunities:

  • New income-generating opportunities in food systems as a result of changing urban consumption patterns
  • Investing in towns and intermediary cities as hubs for economic growth and service delivery for rural areas
  • Boosting agricultural productivity and attracting youth to farming
  • Supporting job creation in the rural non-farm economy and enabling diversified and multi-local livelihood strategies

NEWon Rural-Urban Linkages


Programme and Background Note




Biodata of the speakers 


Press & Media:
– OECD SWAC article “Brussels Briefing: Rural-urban links” (2017)

More info:

– Spore interview with Dimakatso (Nono) Sekhoto: From finance to farming (2017)
– CTA interview with Steve Wiggins Rural-urban links – opportunities for farmers (2017)
– Brussels Briefing 24:  Major drivers for rural transformation in Africa (2011)
– Spore Magazine No. 180 The Connected Farmer: A new opportunity for the agricultural system (2016)
– Spore Magazine No. 176 Marketing and packaging: the retail revolution (2015)
– ICT Update Issue 77 Linking farmers to Markets (2014)
– Spore Magazine No. 157 Urban Agriculture: City farmers (2012)


13h00-14h00 Registration and light Lunch
14h00-14h30 Introduction of the Briefing Isolina Boto, Manager, CTA Brussels Office  [video]

Introductory remarks: Olusola Ojo, Expert Sustainable Economic Development and Trade, ACP Secretariat [video]; Annelene Bremer, Senior Policy Officer, Rural Development, Land Rights, Forestry, BMZ [info|video]; Michael Hailu, Director, CTA [video]

14h30-16h00 Panel 1: Potential of closer rural-urban linkages for rural transformation and job creation
Chair: Michael Hailu, Director, CTA
– Fostering Rural-Urban links and the implications for the rural economy
Steve Wiggins, Senior Researcher, ODI [presentation|video]

– Employment opportunities in West African food systems
Thomas Allen, Economist, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat, OECD SWAC [presentation|video]

– Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture: new opportunities
Edson Mpyisi, Principal Agricultural Economist, Coordinator, Agropoles and Agro-Industrial Parks, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department, African Development Bank Group  [presentation|video]

– Applying a territorial lens to rural development: West Kenya portfolio
Petra Jacobi, Project Manager, GIZ  [presentation|video]

Questions and Answers panel 1 [video]

16h00-16h15 Coffee Break

16h15-18h00 Panel 2: Creating opportunities for rural youth in transforming food systems
Chair: H.E. Mr Amadou Diop, Ambassador of Senegal to the EU
– Fostering employment through territorial development
Denis Pesche, sociologist at CIRAD and member of the Research Unit ART-Dev “Actors, Resources and Territories in Development’ (Montpellier University)  [presentation|video]

– Opportunities for young entrepreneurs in serving urban or semi-urban markets
Nono Dimakatso Sekhoto, African Farmers’ Association of South Africa  [presentation|video]

– Adding value to local products for urban markets
Omar Ouedraogo, Fédération des professionnels agricoles du Burkina (FEPAB)  [presentation|video]

Questions and Answers panel 2 [video]

Closing remarks
H.E. Mr Amadou Diop, Ambassador of Senegal to the EU [video]
Michael Hailu, Director, CTA [video]

Brussels Briefing 48: Rural – Urban linkages in Africa

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): https://bb48.eventbrite.com

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