A European Commission (EC) task force, including a researcher from the South African Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS), has released its recommendations on ways of unlocking the economic potential of rural Africa.

Face-to-face engagement between European and African farmers, improved infrastructure and services in rural areas and access to private finance are some of the recommendations proposed by the EC task force.

Professor Bruno Losch, principal investigator at the South African CoE-FS, was one of a team of 10 experts from Africa and Europe invited by the EC to serve on Task Force Rural Africa (TFRA). The group was asked to propose methods of unlocking the potential of the African rural economy, said Losch, who is also co-director of the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria and lead political economist with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).

In early March, the task force released its final report and recommendations. The team had met in Belgium, Germany and Rwanda last year, and presented the preliminary results at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, in January this year.

The report proposes four main action areas: a territorial development strategy, a sustainable land and natural resources management framework, the sustainable transformation of African agriculture and the development of the African food industry and markets.

It also recommends more direct connections at people, business and government levels. These links would include advice, training and exchange between farmers, students and professional organisations, improved access to finance for SMMEs and more joint investments for African businesses and capacity building to improve public services in rural areas and small towns.

Development policy has traditionally taken a very sectoral approach, said Losch, with agriculture-specific policies, urban-specific policies, education-specific policies, and so on.
The task force chose to take a different approach.

People don’t live in sectors; they live in places,” said Losch. “So, the best way to move forward, and to understand the major binding constraints for the development of rural areas in Africa, is to look at and understand the problems facing a specific place through that lens.”

The European Union and the African Union are now to take the next step by investigating ways of translating the report recommendations into action. – Press release.