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Youth unemployment, insecure land tenure and weak value chains are the main obstacles in the way of ending poverty and inequality in West and Central Africa, says a new report released Wednesday in Abidjan by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Youth under the age of 35 account for 75 per cent of the population of the region which also has the highest number of rural youth than any other region in the world. Empowering youth is the first step towards achieving prosperity in the region, says the report.
“The lack of social and economic opportunities for the large number of young people in the region is the principal driver of migration, says Michel Mordasini, Vice-President of IFAD. “However, by making the right investments – to improve infrastructure, secure land tenure and facilitate their access to finance and training – we can capture the labour and energy of the young generation to transform rural areas into vibrant places to live and work,” he added.
The Rural Development Report 2016: Fostering Inclusive Rural Transformation is a rallying call for policymakers and development practitioners to win the global war against poverty. This systematic and rigorous analysis of the rural sector gives a greater understanding of what key investments and policy reforms should be prioritized to transform rural areas in developing countries so that people and nations can benefit.
Attracting private investment into agriculture and the rural non-farm economy is vital, states the report, adding that many agricultural regulations in Africa, actually serve to deter rather than encourage such investment. “Reforming the regulations that limit private entry and investment in value chains that serve smallholder farmers must be a priority,” the report emphasizes.
According to the report, food systems are changing rapidly to meet the rising demand and shifting diets of middle-class urban consumers from grains to dairy, fish, meat and vegetables. In addition, continued rapid growth of imports shows that there is space for local farmers to grow their businesses if they can produce competitively.
“Rural transformation is a powerful way to overcome poverty,” said Ides de Willebois, Regional Director, West and Central Africa Division, IFAD. “We need to develop rural areas in Africa where people are willing to invest, which then will enable them to produce more, to attain a marketable surplus that can be sold at a profit and provide them with the resources to improve their livelihoods and reinvest. First and foremost, this requires infrastructure to make the rural areas easily accessible, not only physical infrastructure, but also IT and banking infrastructure. Rural transformation will provide hope and opportunity to rural youth, young women and men to build their future lives. We have no other choice.”
The report echoes with the African Development Bank’s ambition to transform African agriculture through its new strategy “Feeding Africa”. “Africa is now poised to take a decisive step to transform its agriculture so that it can end extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition, become a net exporter of food, and rise to the top of agricultural value chains where the continent has a comparative advantage,” said Kapil Kapoor, AfDB’s Acting Vice-President for Agriculture, Water, Human Development, Governance and Natural Resources.
Transforming an initial set of 18 commodity value chains and agro‑ecological zones could open markets worth US $85 billion per annum by 2025, will have a substantial impact on realizing Sustainable Development Goals on poverty reduction and ending hunger, and will require mobilizing US $315 billion – US $400 billion in investments, added Kapoor. This will be done by achieved bringing to scale existing and successful interventions across Africa, while further developing the required capacity of actors – public and private – throughout the system to sustain the positive impacts of these interventions. The AfDB is poised to play a particularly important role in the transformation through its strategy, acting as a catalyst for these efforts using, among other strengths, its financial leverage to raise the investments required and its convening power to bring different partners to the table and enhance accountability.
Note to journalists:
IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US $18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.