Towards an Africa Europe partnership
On March 5 2019, AgriProFocus and foodFIRST organized a meet-up with Kees Blokland about the new report of the EU Task Force Rural Africa: “Towards an Africa Europe Partnership for sustainable development and jobs in rural Africa”. The EU Task Force Rural Africa advises the European Commission about sustainable development and employment opportunities in the African agrifood sector. This report addresses the key areas of action and recommendations for the future EU Africa policy.
After a welcome and introduction by Ewald Wermuth, chairman of the foodFIRST Coalition, Kees Blokland, director of Agriterra and member of the Task Force, shared the key insights and recommendations of the report. He explained with a lot of enthusiasm why he thinks this report can make a difference. For Kees Blokland, the following elements really make the report stand out from previous policies:
- Focus on rural areas and small towns and creating job opportunities there
- Development of high-end agricultural technology in Africa
- Connect to what’s already happening, the democratization of development cooperation and less focus on projects
- Joint responsibility for Africa and the EU, Africa has to take the lead
- From aid to investments
The Task Force puts a lot of emphasis on multi-stakeholder collaboration. All different stakeholders of the quadrangle business-government-academy and social organizations have to play their role in achieving results.
The meet-up indeed attracted professionals from civil society, knowledge institutes, the private sector and government institutions. They engaged in a very lively discussion, that continued during drinks after the official meeting was over. It was clear that the last word hasn’t been said about the European policy and various participants suggested hosting another event after the report has been published, to focus on concrete actions for the Dutch Diamond. As multi-stakeholder networks, both foodFIRST and AgriProFocus have the ambition to continue to facilitate the discussion, both in Europe and in Africa.
Kees Blokland, Agriterra:
“Dit is niet het zoveelste rapport voor onderin de la. Het rapport van de EU Task Force Rural Africa biedt veel kansen voor Nederlandse Vierhoek.”
Notes from the discussion
According to Blokland, the report offers such a new vision of rural development that it could even be called a paradigm shift. The proposed approach is presented as something that could really work and generate a lot of positive energy from both European and African stakeholders.
But is the report really that innovative? Some participants in the audience doubt it. We have been talking about ownership, bottom-up approach and creating jobs for a long time already.
Others even claim that the European Commission missed the opportunity to use the wealth of experience from member states and is reinventing the wheel itself. And what about disruptive European trade policies, destabilizing local markets?
Blokland: ‘’These few chicken wings that Europe is exporting are not destroying the African economy. It’s the African elites and they have to take their responsibility”. He calls on the private sector to link their investments to coalitions of local investors. Now, facilities are still mostly financed by local entrepreneurs, whereas international companies could really contribute to supply chain development through these linked investments. Furthermore, he calls on knowledge institutes to adapt new insights and technologies to the local context and develop last mile solutions.
Several questions were asked about the local feasibility of the proposed policy. How could this decentralized approach be organized? The report proposes direct exchange between professionals in Europe and Africa, from universities to land registry. Small towns could be reached through new technologies and broad communication, making use of e.g. farmer organisations. Instead of submitting project proposals, hubs should be created where information and financial means come together. ‘It will take some time, but we have to get rid of the idea that it is European plans that have to be implemented’, according to Blokland.
The report puts emphasis on local employment and value creation in rural areas as a means to reduce uneven development and inequality.
More than exporting our expertise, new technologies have to be developed that enhance local skills, capacities and assets.