Agricultural Policy Promotes Peace

Partnering for Africa’s Century: Innovation and leadership to drive jobs in rural areas.

4th December 2018 | Berlin, Germany

By 2050, the African continent will be home to 2.5 billion people, twice as many as today, and all will need enough to eat. Every year around 20 million young Africans enter the labour market, many in rural areas. At the same time, Africa imports more than 70 billion dollars in food every year – virtually exporting exactly the kinds of jobs that are so urgently needed. A growing and productive agricultural and food sector is a powerful way to generate income, create jobs and combat hunger. Increasing prosperity across the African continent has to start with rural areas.

Germany is the world’s largest bilateral donor to rural development with its unique EINEWELT ohne Hunger (ONE WORLD – No Hunger, SEWOH) initiative, 1.5 billion euros in annual investment, and a particular focus on Africa. The BMZ works with powerful partners from business, science, civil society and politics, including the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Initiated by Kofi Annan and run by African decision-makers, the organization is a key player in developing Africa's rural regions. AGRA assists African governments in shaping rural structural change and creating favourable conditions for growth and employment. The BMZ and AGRA pursue a common goal, albeit with somewhat different approaches at times.

So when the AGRA Board, comprising high-ranking political and scientific representatives, convened in Berlin, the BMZ took advantage of number of events to promote dialogue between important stakeholders such as NGOs, farmers' associations, representatives of European member states, the agricultural and food industries and politicians and the Board. At the closing event on the evening of December 4, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) hosted around 200 guests at "Partnering for Africa’s Century: Innovation and leadership to drive growth and productivity in rural areas" organised by the GIZ’s Development Policy Forum.

Parliamentary State Secretary Dr Maria Flachsbarth opened the evening event at the BMZ by telling the audience that “agricultural policy promotes peace.” She went on to detail how agricultural policy had been at the heart of the European unification process following the Second World War, as the decimation of European agriculture during the conflict had left the people to painfully experience true hunger during the post-war winters. Flachsbarth added that not only had a booming agricultural sector been essential to productivity; it had also been instrumental to the prosperity and peace Europe enjoys today. She pointed to similar challenges facing Africa at the present, emphasizing that governments needed to shape rural structural change to balance increased productivity and social equality. Here, she urged, innovation and a more modern agricultural system based on smallholder farmers was the key.

Chairman of the AGRA Board, Strive Masiyiwa, began his address by describing a trip he had taken with Kofi Annan to Mali’s rural north. Even back then, Kofi Annan was drawing attention to the consequences of the lack of employment prospects in rural areas, predicting that many of the unemployed young men in the villages of Mali would cross the Sahara to reach Europe or join extremists. Six months later, Masiyiwa noted, the region had been overrun and the area they once visited was now inaccessible.

Masiyiwa recalled how female Malian farmers were already reporting the changes taking place to the climate in the region and asking for more robust seeds. According to Masiyiwa, Kofi Annan saw the African Green Revolution as the best solution, a movement that would have to begin at the grassroots level with smallholder farmers if a lasting solution were to be found to the continent's problems. He highlighted how many good approaches in agriculture had been successfully implemented since then. The issue now at hand, Masiyiwa said, was to speed up the process and create prospects for millions of young Africans.

The subsequent panel discussion with Dr Maria Flachsbarth, Elizabeth Nsimadala, President of the East African Farmers Federation, Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, and Dr Stefan Liebing, Chairman of the German Business Association for Africa, focused on the “how tos” of the Green Revolution, from improved seeds to the more efficient organisation of farmers. The panel also talked about steps that could be taken to encourage more German companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to invest sustainably and long-term in Africa’s rural areas. Dr Liebing said that success depended on finding common ground between African partners’ needs and what German companies could realistically offer, along with stable political conditions and legal protections. Dr Agnes Kalibata commented that AGRA needed to take the diversity of countries, villages and companies into account to ensure sustainable, positive results. Ms Nsimadala stressed how many good initiatives, approaches and technologies there were. She went on to highlight the importance of viewing farming as an entrepreneurial activity and optimizing approaches through continual innovation. Dr Flachsbarth agreed that that were many good approaches, while pointing out how much more was still to be done. She identified shifting more value creation to Africa as a priority.

The panel concluded that the most important element in driving development was keeping young, well-educated people in Africa’s rural areas where they could contribute to progress, a point also made by Strive Masiyiwa in a lecture to 150 predominantly African students at Berlin’s Humboldt University the day before. Many had travelled from all over Germany to hear him speak. “I want you to return to Africa as well-educated, future leaders and assume responsibility there,” Masiyiwa said. The 3.5 views of the recorded lecture on Facebook are ample proof of how well his message resonated.

Photo above: GIZ/ SAUTI EAST AFRICA Ltd.

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