Bridging the gap between opportunity and reality

 

We have a unique opportunity to show that policy exchange and cooperation in agriculture works and provides for jobs and income opportunities.

We know that the 21st century holds massive opportunity for Africa. Projected population growth will increase Africa's population to 4.2 billion people by 2100, while the EU population will only reach 600 million. The growing young African population is a tremendous resource, with significant potential for economic opportunity, business growth and investment from third countries. And nowhere is this potential stronger than in the agriculture and agri-food sector, which employs up to 75% of the African labour force while representing less than 33% of African GDP. But the reality needs to catch up to the opportunity. There is a need to create 18 million new jobs every year, but currently only 3 million new jobs are being created. Given this formidable challenge, we need to speed things up, and this is where the Task Force on Rural Africa comes into the picture. We want the members of the Task Force, to take this momentum and use it to generate new ideas and proposals for where we go next.

 

The Task Force will provide advice on how to unlock the potential of Africa's agricultural sector 

 

In May 2018, the expert group on agriculture in Africa kicked off with their first meeting in Brussels. The Task Force will assist the Commission by providing it with expertise, advice and recommendations on reinforcing the EU-Africa partnership in food and farming, aiming to further develop Africa’s agricultural sector and increase job creation. 

Investments will only serve their intended purpose if they are accepted and well-managed on the ground.

The Task Force Rural Africa is comprised of 11 members from various African and European countries, with different and complementary profiles, in areas such as agriculture, agri-business, finance, development, research and sustainable production. The experts will meet for six full day sessions, concluding with a final report to be presented in January 2019. This report will include recommendations and where appropriate, proposals for further initiatives under the Joint Africa EU Strategy.

 

Enhancing partnerships across government, agribusiness and private sector

 

Making these changes happen will require enhancing the partnerships between governments, international partners, agribusiness and the private sector to foster responsible investments and link African farmers to global markets and value chains. All of this is about 'partnership'. This is why I am very keen on underlining the critical role of Sustainable Development Goal 17, "To revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development."

Let me stress that we also need a "culture of cooperation" at local level. Investments will only serve their intended purpose if they are accepted and well-managed on the ground, based on transparent and fair and inclusive resource management. We need to explore the economic, social and cultural inter-linkages of agriculture with wider society. We need to engage all rural stakeholders by fostering partnership and bottom-up approaches.

This is precisely the mandate of this new Task Force - to bring together African and European expertise and advice to enhance the role of the agri-food and business sector in creating sustainable jobs and growth. We need to reflect on what we can do better. Besides the fundamental development assistance, how can we better target policy support, foster investment in rural areas and support agribusiness? 

We have a unique opportunity to show that policy exchange and cooperation in agriculture works and provides for jobs and income opportunities. I want agriculture to be among the first sectors where we have a successful policy dialogue, with real positive outcomes, between the two continents. A strong, stable and prosperous Africa is essential for the EU. And by working closely together, we can help to bridge the gap between opportunity and reality.