By Judith Akolo
The significance of people in any development is key to realizing the success of programs targeting rural development.
The Chief Executive Officer of Nepad Agency Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki says in order to realize meaningful transformation, the people should be involved.
Speaking at the 2nd African Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon, Dr. Mayaki said “People must not be used as objects of development, but be involved as genuine and willing drivers and actors in the transformation,” he said and added, “It is transformation from the inside. In this case, and unique to Africa, the element of youth and women demands special attention.”
Dr. Mayaki said while rural transformation is important and a priority for Africa there is a need to make it understood.
Quoting the UN 2015 statistics, that an estimated 60% of Africa’s 1.2 billion population live in rural areas with livelihoods based on what is largely subsistence farming, Mayaki said weak and most time dysfunctional institutional capacity to offer desired social service delivery to their populations, the rural environment is marked by continuing stagnation in socio-economic progression with populations increasingly vulnerable in the face of social, economic and climate shocks.
He said the rural population is poorly organized and often isolated, beyond the reach of emerging economic opportunities or social safety nets which in effect compounds an already sorry situation.
The limited success, he said, of the old approaches, and changing international development contexts, “call for a new rural development paradigm that takes advantage of the diverse and innovative roles rural areas can play while integrating specific economic, social and ecological concerns.”
Noting that over 60% of the African population is below the age of 35, Mayaki said this translates to a population that is characteristically young and facing unemployment, underemployment, lack of industry-related skills which limit them to access to jobs.
“With the median age of 19 years and over 60% of the population under the age of 35,” said Mayaki, “it is not unexpected that Africa’s rural population is characteristically young and increasingly facing unemployment, underemployment, lack of industry-related skills, limited or no access to capital, unmet needs for education and health services.”
Mayaki said while a significant proportion of the continent’s youth population is marginalised and trapped in the poverty-cycle, they also are unable to develop their capacity to contribute to the realization of Agenda 2063 aspirations.
“Those picking up some level of education and skills are mostly the ones migrating into urban and peri-urban centers within and outside their countries including venturing into Europe and the Americas,” he said and added, “A growing populist policies and systems including a lot of celebrated and “politically correct” rhetoric on the “importance of youth” remain just that.
He said the African leaders rendition that “the youth are leaders of tomorrow,” has also contributed to the maginalization of the youth and blocked the youth from advancing as they wait to be the “leaders of tomorrow.”
The Nepad Agency CEO noted that while Africa has to respond to the immediate question of creating jobs for the ten million youth entering the job market annually, “it is important that there is at the same time medium-to-long term considerations starting with relevant investment in children from infancy – especially in their health, nutrition and education.”
He called for a paradigm shift in which governments develop strong vision and ability to plan and facilitate coordination and implementation of a multi-sectoral strategy by regional and local authorities.
That supportive policies be developed that include reform and early investment in education, presence of a certain degree of social capital in rural areas, and implementation of contracted plans.
“Authority is being challenged everywhere and local voices are critical in the design and implementation of new paradigm in an inclusive approach,” he said added, “The Cost Benefit Analysis will indicate that the transformative benefit far outweighs the transaction cost.”
Dr. Mayaki said the NEPAD Rural Futures Initiative is a space where countries and regions will develop African solutions to issues and problems as understood and articulated by Africa itself including backed by data and statistics, analysis that is “African”.