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, a new report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB) has stated.
The report unveiled in Abidjan yesterday noted that 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, Vice-President of IFAD, Michel Mordasini said.
“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 emphasised.
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,” the Regional Director, West and Central Africa Division, IFAD, Ides de Willebois said.
“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.”