Brussels, Belgium – 22 March 2017
The 48th Brussels Policy Briefing covered several important issues, such as the way rural economies and farmers could partake in the use of opportunities created by the process of urbanisation. Another topic that interested the participants was the growing demographic challenge African countries are facing and the need to attract youth to stay or go back to the rural areas. As one solution to the latter problem, the presenters stressed the potential food systems and food industry as an employer and economic motor have in African countries.
Rural population is growing. Statistics show that as of now 3,5 billion people live in rural areas. The process of urbanisation attracts more and more people, especially youth, to the cities, most of them move to urban areas because of lack of opportunities in rural areas. This trend should be a wake-up call to politicians to concentrate on stimulating rural development and job creation in rural areas, so young people can carry out economic activities in these areas.
Africa is especially affected by this issue, as there are 420 million young people in the age between 15 and 35 currently living in the continent. In the next 40 years this number will continue to grow. This fact creates an additional pressure on the economy to open up perspectives to the young generation. With limited economic diversification, African countries are facing the enormous challenge of integrating 11 million young people entering the labour market each year, while offering only 3 million new jobs per year. The informal sector also absorbs a significant number, nevertheless leaving 1/3 of the young population under- or unemployed. This represents a challenge and an opportunity. If policy is able to make use of this enormous potential, youth can be a major driver for development. If not it may pose a severe risk to the social cohesion in the region.