Last weekend’s G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany resulted in some potentially good news for rural communities in Africa.
The key points in the Africa Partnership encompass a focus on opportunities for women and girls, increased rural employment for young people and investment in infrastructure.
Much of the content is based on the ‘Compact for Africa’, launched in June, in which the G20 agreed on the need to prioritise increasing private investment and investment in infrastructure in Africa. They recognised the shared responsibility for tackling some of the continent’s challenges by introducing measures and tools to create more favourable conditions for investment.
While the Africa Partnership presents some enormous opportunities, the millions of smallholder farmers in Africa - who make up 52% of the African workforce - risk being left behind unless all stakeholders incorporate their needs at the earliest stages of planning.
1. Support for female smallholder farmers
The #eSkills4Girls initiative was launched at the G20 with the aim of promoting opportunities for women and girls in the digital economy in low income and developing countries. This offers huge potential for increasing incomes among female smallholder farmers, as long as they are included in the scope of the initiative. There are many examples of how the digital economy is enhancing lives in Africa, for example, young Ghanaian agripeneur, Nana Adjoa Sifa Amponsah, told the ‘ONE WORLD - No Hunger conference in Berlin in April:
Most smallholder farmers in Ghana have access to mobile phones, not smart phones, just old simple phones. Companies that send climate and market data to farmers via mobile apps such as Esoko and Farmerline are increasing productivity in rural areas. I have seen it, and it is really working.
#eSkills4Girls was accompanied by the launch of the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Financing Initiative which aims to increase women´s access to capital, markets and technical assistance. Supporting female entrepreneurs could have a great impact on rural communities, but again needs to include female farmers, since they make up at least 26% of the continent’s workforce. With finance, training and support, they could move from subsistence farming to a more entrepreneurial approach.
We need to raise awareness that farming is a business, not just a way of life. If rural women start considering that what they are doing is running a business, the way they view their work and their situation will change.
2. Increased rural youth employment
An initiative for Rural Youth Employment in developing countries with a focus on Africa was also launched at the G20. Its aim is to contribute to the creation of 1.1 million new jobs by 2022 and to provide innovative skills development programmes for at least 5 million young people over the next five years.
The six stated areas for concrete action are
- aligning with international and developing countries strategies and policies
- closing data and knowledge gaps
- promoting rural youth employment in the context of conflict, disaster, fragility and violence
- improving equitable and sustainable access to land
- increasing responsible investment and financing for rural youth employment.
Since farming employs 52% of Africans, it makes sense to focus investment and skills development into agriculture to make the sector more profitable and attractive to young people.
The MaMo Panel encourages innovative approaches to investment in agriculture through vocational and business training for young people. TechnoServe’s STRYDE programme is a good example of this. It helped over 3,500 young people in rural areas in Rwanda over a 3 year period. The programme supported them to get their business ideas off the ground through training in business management, financial literacy, personal development and confidence building exercises. Jackson, a 27-year-old STRYDE graduate received a US$770 loan to start his potato growing business. When this business proved successful, he received a second loan of US$900 and started growing garlic, which he now sells for US$7 per kilogramme to brokers at the farmgate who then sell it on to buyers in Kigali. Jackson owns one hectare of land and was able to use part of his loan to rent a second hectare for US$300 per year, allowing him to expand his business. During harvest time, he employs 10 people to work with him.
3. Improved infrastructure
The communique also included an overarching emphasis on investing in infrastructure. It’s crucial that this takes into account the needs of farmers across Africa - since it affects food security and quality for all the continent’s inhabitants.
As Africa becomes ever more urban, stronger physical, economic, social, and political connections between town and country are crucial. When linkages are strong, farmers are able to sell increasing shares of their produce in urban markets, invest their additional incomes in land and inputs or invest in education for their families and prosper. Consumers also get better food products.
Smallholder farmers can thrive and increase yields significantly if they have better energy supply, irrigation, roads and storage as well as communications and information technology. Investment is urgently needed in all of these areas and in transitional towns so that they can create hubs of economic activity benefiting smallholders and cities.
The African Partnership is an excellent first step towards a new approach to investment in Africa. It presents great opportunities for African nations to attract investment in agricultural innovation and development. There is also broad scope for harnessing the potential of the continent’s growing young population through offering attractive employment options in rural economies.
The opinions represented in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of individual Malabo Montpellier Panel members and their organisations.