In order to sustain momentum and to take stock of progress achieved, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) with the support and in collaboration with other partners including FAO, GIZ and AfDB will host the 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaoundé, Cameroon sometimes in September this year.
The forum was agreed upon by a panel of experts at a meeting on “Rural and Regional Policies for Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Africa” (NEPAD-OECD-AFD-CIRAD) held in Paris on 30th March 2016.
The meeting consensus was that, innovative approaches that take into account territorial dimensions and build upon local dynamics are required to achieve the structural transformation of rural areas and to provide decent jobs and insertion opportunities for young people.
The 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum will be held under the theme “Transforming Africa’s Rural Space through Youth Empowerment, Job Creation and Skills Development.” Specifically, the Conference will provide a platform for exchange and peer learning on experiences and insights in catalyzing and fostering job creation and skills development in rural based agri- and non-agri-systems as key components to advance rural development.
Objectives of the 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum are: To raise awareness of the magnitude of the challenges that Africa is facing in coming decades; as well as the need for transformational development strategies based on multi-sectoral, place-based and participatory approaches, for job creation.
To review and share lessons on available tools and methodologies for designing and implementing multi-sectoral, place-based, and participatory strategies and projects for youth employment; to identify and support the options for creating added value and decent jobs for young people in the informal economy, specific sectors and niches opportunities.
Also, to take stock of necessary training and skills as well as adequate financing for youth and entrepreneurs; and support member states of aligning employment policies with their growth and development agenda.
The format of the Forum is designed to achieve such objectives with dedicated inputs that will lead to take stock of current challenges and opportunities to achieve rural transformation for youth employment and empowerment.
This includes a new edition of the Atlas on the “New Emerging Rural World” as well as a synthesis report on youth and women employment policies in Africa.
Looking back: 1st Africa rural development forum
The 26th Session of the African Union Summit and the 20th AU Assembly decision, endorsed the African Rural Development Forum (ARDF) as the continental platform for innovative thinking on African development pathways.
This led to the organisation of the Inaugural Africa Rural Development Forum (ARDF) by the NEPAD Agency in collaboration with “Agence Française de Développement” (AFD), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The Forum was hosted by the Republic of Benin in May, 2013 under the theme “Sustainable Rural Transformation Agenda for Africa”.
The key outcome of the 1st ARDF was the adoption of the “Cotonou Declaration on Rural Futures” to support the structural transformation of the continent and guide its possible development pathways through several key overarching principles, namely: Promote an inclusive and empowering people-centered development; adopt a multi-sectorial approach; foster place-based strategies and territorial Development; improve the knowledge base to inform context-specific policies and connect the economic, social, environmental & political dimensions of development.
The purpose of the Rural Futures Programme as a multi-sectorial approach for advancing rural transformation across Africa is to facilitate new thinking and reach broad agreement with respect to the vision, strategies and plans for accelerated and sustainable development in order to address the challenges of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
The Programme is based on the understanding that rural economy is a vital component for structural change. It encompasses a broader understanding of the interrelationships between economic, social, environmental and political factors for advancing rural transformation and takes into account the roles of different stakeholders working in a transparent and collaborative approach.
It also supports practical measures for the development of the continent, particularly addressing the issues of skills development, job creation and decentralisation.
Snail paced progress
Although increased attention has been paid to the continent’s fast urbanization process, Africa’s population remains predominantly rural, with six out of ten people living in rural areas (UN, 2014). More importantly, the slow pace of Africa’s demographic transition implies that this rural population will keep growing for the next decades. By 2050, it is expected to increase by more than 50 percent reaching 1 billion people (UN, 2014).
Such demographic trends are having consequences for the economic fabric, environmental quality and public service provision in both rural and urban areas.
They give rural areas a critical role in Africa’s structural transformation characterised by the incipient diversification of national economies, particularly in Small Scale Agriculture. Rural development, structural transformation of Africa economies and ways to unlock the potential of these areas must remain a priority.
This should translate into a focus on aligning employment policies with growth and development agendas as the continent shifts overtime from agrarian to urban industrial societies.
However, it is important to recognize that the most significant social and economic opportunities for the youth still lie in the nexus between rural and urban dynamics.
It follows therefore, that value-addition and manufacturing job opportunities for youth are more likely to be in ‘rural industrialization’ policies and investments that improve capacity of youth to produce and supply both urban and rural markets with value-added and better quality products and services.
Governments ought to be looking at policies that improve rural infrastructure not only to better connect markets, but also allow flow of small and intermediate technologies that improve rural labor productivity especially for women and youth- across the board in terms for rural economy- farming, natural resource development, artisanal mining, cultural and heritage industries, tourism and hospitality industries etc.
In the context of youth employment and its attendant dynamics (rural development, farming systems and agriculture food markets, food consumption both domestically and internationally; rural development and agribusiness), especially in Africa, agricultural development along the value chain offers one of the opportunities to create the best impetus for engaging emerging ‘African youth’ for inclusive growth in Africa.
Targeted capacity building on youth entrepreneurship and youth empowerment is required to ensure that the private sector skills gaps are addressed, and that through youth empowerment initiatives the necessary intangible aspects such as leadership abilities, personal development and other life skills training are improved.
Therefore, the linkages between population dynamics, spatial and sectorial specificities and inclusive and sustainable development have to be fostered. This objective can be achieved through multi-sectorial, place-based and participatory approaches feeding the strategy design.