The Task Force for Rural Africa delivered its final report on March 7, an agri-food and rural agenda for the new ‘Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’ unveiled by President Jean-Claude Juncker in the 2018 State of the Union.
According to the recommendations of this group of African and European experts, Africa and the EU should develop a partnership operating at three levels: people to people, business to business, and government to government. It would institute a multi-stakeholder dialogue at all levels, starting locally, and enable a closer connection between African and European societies, business communities and governments.
Launched in May 2018 by the European Commission, the Task Force was set up to provide advice on strengthening the Africa-Europe partnership in food and farming. The European Commission will ensure follow-up and implementation of several actions recommended by this group of experts to support the development of African agri-food sector and rural economy.
“Agriculture and rural development policy is leading the way in EU-Africa political cooperation. The Task Force Rural Africa is at the centre of this work: its recommendations explore ways to boost public and private investment, to exchange best practice and share knowledge, and to deepen policy cooperation across the board,” said Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan.
“This is a very important day for the Africa-Europe Alliance. Today we have seen the hard work of the Task Force on Rural Africa culminate in concrete recommendations. Now it is up to us to come together, take these valuable recommendations forward and devise solutions that can deliver what we all want: a positive rural transformation, and an inclusive and sustainable agriculture and agri-food sector,” added International development and cooperation Commissioner Neven Mimica.
“The Task Force report recognises the new reality of Africa and Europe as global partners on an equal footing. It demonstrates that farmers and the food industry should work hand in hand to take on the new opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Area will offer and also, build the regional markets needed for Africa’s long term food security,” said African Union (AU) Commissioner for rural economy and agriculture Josefa Sacko.
Building on some of the short term recommendations made by the Task Force, the European Commission will start implementing the following projects:
Twinning and exchange programmes between African and European agricultural bodies: the Commission has just launched a Pilot Vocational Education and training initiative with Africa of €5 million. Additional funds from the EU budget will be made available for other twinning programmes for rural women’s organisations, farmer organisations and cooperatives, businesses and public entities with their peers.
AU-EU Agribusiness platform: recognising the key role the private sector can play for structural transformation in Africa, the Commission proposes to set up a platform to link European and African businesses. This platform is expected to help identify challenges and opportunities for private investment and trade between the two continents.
Innovation hubs: to support ‘agripreneurs’ and the African agri-food sector, innovation hubs can be established or strengthened with the aim of applying practical knowledge. These hubs would bring together national research, higher education systems, farmers, their organisations and the private sector to facilitate –amongst others- digital innovation and skills development.
The report handed over today is a landmark in the process towards more cooperation between the EU and Africa in the agri-food sector, identifying four strategic areas of action for the medium to long term: job creation, climate action, sustainable transformation of African agriculture and development of the African food industry and markets.
To make this an open and inclusive process, the Commission will launch an online consultation to gather direct feedback from African stakeholders on the Task Force’s strategic approach and on the state of play of the agri-food trade and cooperation between our two continents. Together with today’s report, the outcome of this consultation will feed into the third AU-EU agricultural ministerial conference in Rome, planned for June 2019.
Effective follow-up will also be ensured through the setting-up of an implementation group composed of ministerial and private representatives from both Africa and the EU. The group will be presented at the ministerial conference in Rome.