Why robust planning for rural transformation in Africa is vital

17Jan 2022
Angel Navuri
The Guardian
Why robust planning for rural transformation in Africa is vital

AS many African countries continue to strategize towards attaining sustainable economic development, special focus needs to be given to advancing robust rural transformation planning.

Rural development is critical to sustainable economic development in Africa as majority of its population live in rural areas and worse still, many African economies are still heavily reliant on their rural economies as a primary driver of growth and development.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) experience in developing countries over the past 40 years clearly shows that investing in rural people leads to poverty reduction and economic growth that go beyond agriculture and rural areas. IFAD's 2016 Rural Development Report, presented evidence that inclusive and sustainable rural transformation is fundamental to economic and social growth, and to poverty reduction at the national level.

Rural economies transform as countries develop, presenting considerable opportunities for people working in rural areas in both smallholder agriculture and the non-farm economy.

Population increases and rising incomes are creating a growing demand for food in developing countries, and smallholder farmers will have a major role to play in meeting it.

In many countries to date, economic activities especially those related to agriculture and the extractives sectors are largely carried out within the rural space. National and local Government policies have not always been successful in addressing the needs of rural communities or at tapping into their considerable potential.

African countries need to identify a wide range of policy options that could be deployed in strengthening planning linkages within rural territories.

This can only be possible by strengthening rural-urban linkages and building institutions for rural transformation, improved partnerships, experience sharing and innovative approaches on rural development, regional planning and skills development.

It is equally important for countries to have a political will to fast track rural transformation by creating conducive rural development polices and legal environment so as to stimulate growth of rural economies.

It’s on such a background that the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD), in collaboration with partners in December last year organized the third Africa Rural Development Forum (ARDF) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the theme, “Decentralized Rural Transformation Planning through Experience Capitalization”.

The ARDF is a major component of AUDA-NEPAD Rural Futures Program (RFP), which is a multi- sectoral approach for advancing rural transformation across Africa, to facilitate new thinking and reach broad agreement with respect to the vision, strategies and plans for accelerated and sustainable development for attaining the vision of African Union’s Agenda 2063.

The high-level forum was held under the patronage of H.E. Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the DRC President and Chairperson of the African Union.

The forum among other things endorsed the document titled “Operation Strategy for the Blueprint to Implement Rural 
Development in Africa”, identified scalable practices on planning for rural transformation, 
discussed efficient policies and decisions-making tools for 
transformational rural development.

Participants also shared lessons on south-south cooperation, multisectoral and intersectoral approaches towards 
rural transformation.

The forum was held under restructuring of various global challenges and priorities that include Covid-19 post-pandemic economic development recovery; addressing global food challenges with focus on zero hunger target by 2030.

Africa however still faces many other challenges of which it’s demographic profile is central to the structural and rural transformation debate.

A radically changing rural Africa will need to provide as many agricultural and non-agricultural jobs as possible.

Decades of weird economic systems of most African countries characterised by the production of primary goods for exports has left a large proportion of the population in rural poverty and urban unemployment, with inherent structural limitations to growth that limit inclusive growth.

Additionally, new territories are emerging at an increasing rate because of the densification of road, transportation and infrastructure networks and the development of rural centres and small towns, stimulated by trade in their largely rural locality.

On this regard, territorial planning is therefore fundamental to economic development as it reshapes, the forms and functions of cities and regions to generate endogenous economic growth, prosperity and employment, while addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, marginalized groups.

Sustainable Rural Transformation Agenda for Africa

The Agenda 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. It is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development. The integrated nature of sustainable development and Agenda 2063 demands solid collaboration across sectors, within continental, regional, national and sub-national spheres.

This cross-sectoral approach involves multiple ministries, academia, development partners, civil societies, women and youth and involves increasing use of innovative tools to manage the performance of public policies, flagship programs and service delivery.

These approaches foster more inclusive, collaborative and responsive processes across the development cycle from planning, to implementation, to monitoring and evaluation.

The capacity gap in most African countries is a component in leveraging these emerging approaches hence the Rural Futures Programme draws multi-stakeholders and partnerships in its implementation.

Rural women and men as agents of change

Delivering on the commitment to leave no-one behind requires recognizing rural women and men as essential development partners and agents of change in their own lives and communities.

Their roles in producing nutritious food, in managing natural resources and ecosystems, in climate adaptation and mitigation, and in generating incomes and employment opportunities have great potential to contribute to growing rural economies.