The African Union - European Union Agriculture Ministers Conference
2 July 2017, Rome, Italy
2017 is a defining year for strengthening the partnership between Europe and Africa. The 5th Africa-EU Summit in November 2017 is a key opportunity to give a new impetus to this partnership. Profound economic and societal transformational changes are taking place in Africa. The demographic growth is extraordinary: according to United Nations projections, Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050, from 1.2 billion people to 2.4 billion of predominantly young people. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the continent needs to create 18 million new jobs each year up to 2035, to absorb new labour market entrants, compared to the 3 million jobs per year currently created in the formal economy.
Challenges such as poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition could very well be exacerbated by this population growth. Nevertheless, over the past two decades, Africa demonstrated impressive economic progress and positive transformations, providing new and unique opportunities, such as growing and increasingly integrated markets, a dynamic SMEs sector, natural resources and fertile soil. It is in within the context of improving rural livelihoods for Africa’s young populations that the AU Malabo Declaration, in its commitment to halving poverty on the continent by 2015, resolved to ensure inclusive Agricultural Growth and Transformation on the continent and to this end, recommitted to create job opportunities for at least 30% of the youth in agricultural value chains.
The EU is also at the crossroads: discussing its own future direction but also the future of its relations with the Countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific after the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement in 2020. The EU is Africa's closest neighbour, first foreign investor, first trading partner – offering free access to the EU market via Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), Free Trade Agreements and the “Everything but Arms initiative”, first partner in development and principal source of remittances. On the other hand, the African governments are progressively negotiating the Continental Free Trade Area aimed at boosting intra-Africa trade. Moreover, Africa’s demographic trends and the increasing mobility and migration add a new dimension to the need for a common agenda to promote sustainable economic development in Africa, in order to create the jobs that the continent needs and to make the most of the opportunities it offers.
Responsible investments in rural areas and the agricultural economy, value chains and integrated markets, accompanied by a better focus on research and innovation and the sustainable management of natural resources, with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and digitalisation as important enablers, have a key role in fostering economic growth, job creation and development in African countries. Agriculture plays a substantial role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in any sustainable future as it is intrinsically linked to issues such as jobs, food, air, climate change, water, soil and biodiversity. The vision for agriculture-led economic growth and prosperity is consistent with the AU’s Agenda 2063’s first Aspiration of “A prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development” as read in conjunction with the sixth Aspiration – “An Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by its people, especially its women and youth and caring for children”. To this end, the proposed theme of the November AU-EU 5th Summit is befitting and paramount. Young people and women combine as a big segment of the demographic pie in Africa and empowering the youth and women with ‘agropreneurial’ skills and capital must be among this decade’s three-top most priorities.