This is a guest post by Owen Cylke. Mr. Cylke is a development professional and a retired senior foreign service officer with USAID.
Dr. Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki, Executive Secretary of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), this week declared his organization’s intent to “revitalize” development efforts in Africa. Recognizing the successful and well-supported efforts of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which has been the foundation for development efforts in Africa since its launch in 2003, Dr. Mayaki was careful to describe his intention as a natural next step in the CAADP process.
CAADP itself has all the indicia of success. Following years of neglect, agriculture is once again central to the development agenda in Africa; and this African-led initiative has found affirmation and substantial support from the G8, donor communities, and not-for-profits such as the Gates Foundation. Indeed, Gates’ “End Hunger in Africa” and USAID’s “Feed the Future” programs define the central themes of international engagement in Africa’s development today.
But as we all know only too well new realities emerge over time. France’s CIRAD (Agricultural Research for Development) supported a multi-year research effort in collaboration with the World Bank (RuralStruc) which has identified a demographic time bomb. There will be seventeen million new entrants to Arica’s workforce each year by 2030. The current agriculture sector cannot accommodate these numbers, and the current urbanization phenomenon in Africa is not producing jobs on that scale either. Dr. Mayaki, as a founder of the African think tank Le Hub Rural and as former Prime Minister of Niger, has emphasized the economic and political challenge of youth employment for years. It is not surprising then that Dr. Mayaki’s declaration was in the context of a signing of a new General Agreement between CIRAD and NEPAD in Paris on December 4, 2012.
NEPAD’s effort to “revitalize” development efforts in Africa is organized under the rubric of Rural Futures, capturing space for agriculture, while emphasizing the links between and necessary transition from on-farm to off-farm employment, agriculture to industry, rural to urban settlement. In collaboration with WWF, NEPAD has also emphasized the links between this necessary progression, the environment, and sustainability–relieving pressures on the region’s fragile landscapes and creating the potential for investments in a green economy inherent to the process of transition.
Equally portentous, Rural Futures points in the direction of a new approach to rural development itself. Moving away from the traditional focus on a defined or particular geography to one that takes account of the connections between different geographies, as they together create economic zones, underscore national economic cohesion, and support the evolution of regional economic progress. The question now will be whether international donor communities can follow on Dr. Mayaki’s leadership and support his vision of a more dynamic and promising Rural Future for Africa in the design of their ongoing agricultural programs.