Agribusiness, youth and women entrepreneurship, regional trade and ICT4Ag were the key themes of five panel debates that CTA organised with its partners during the 2017 European Development Days (EDD). CTA director, Michael Hailu, reflects on the discussions during the forum, both within and outside the CTA sessions.
The EU's leading forum on international development, the 2-day EDD held every year in early June, brings together participants from the public and private sectors, EU institutions, government leaders and civil society representatives, amongst others. For 2017, the overarching theme was 'Investing in development' with three key focus areas: investing in people and planet; investing in prosperity; and investing in peace and partnership. At the EDD17, EU institutions and member states signed the new European Consensus on Development, which will serve as a framework to strengthen development cooperation and policy and aligns EU support with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other UN agreements.
"Much of EDD 2017 was on how to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and this involved a recognition that agriculture and rural development remain central to achieving many of the SDGs, particularly in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries," states Michael Hailu. There are critical issues around climate change, rapid population growth and urbanisation, forced migration, and how to create employment for the large number of young people entering the labour market each year. "Agriculture must to be centre stage in making progress towards achieving the SDGs," Hailu continues, "And this is at the core of our strategy at CTA."
Engaging the private sector as a key partner in the promotion of inclusive growth and job creation, particularly for women and young people, was a key aspect of EDD 2017. "So how do we leverage the private sector along with technology to make agriculture more business-oriented, enhance value chains and improve market linkages? These are some of the critical aspects that were shared and discussed," adds Hailu. "It was particularly encouraging to have young people sharing their energy, dynamism and experiences that we can all learn from. Many of these entrepreneurs, with very little help and against all odds, have created successful sustainable businesses. The challenge is how do we learn from that innovation process and scale up?"
"Too often in meetings like these we talk about the challenges and yet these young entrepreneurs focus on solutions. They face many obstacles but with hard work and persistence they can achieve something extraordinary," emphasises Hailu. He added that one particularly inspiring example is Lovin Kobusingye, managing director of Kati Farms in Uganda who was involved in the CTA session on 'Investing in women entrepreneurs: enabling women's economic participation for sustainable growth and rural development'. Launched in 2011, Kati Farms links several hundred smallholder fish farmers, most of whom are women, to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and street vendors in Uganda, and also exports to Burundi, Kenya and Sudan. Kobusingye credits her achievements to developing innovative products, such as her unique fish sausages. But her success did not come overnight and she stressed in the EDD panel session that it is critical for other young and women entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality without waiting for government or donor support. Once a start-up has proved their business model, opportunities for accessing credit and technical support become much easier.
"We need to learn from these examples of success and apply the same persistence, determination and enthusiasm to working together to help young people create successful agribusinesses. ICTs are playing a transformational role in helping to create jobs, stimulate innovation and involve more young people and women along the agricultural value chain. And at CTA, we will continue to focus on these critical areas to contribute to achieving the SDGs," concludes Hailu.