On the sunny morning of Monday 27th March 2017, I joined thirty three other young people from Sub-Saharan Africa at the City Hotel Bonn-Meckenheim, Germany to officially start the ‘kick-off workshop’ in the run-up to the international conference- “The Future of the Rural World” in Berlin.
It was an opportunity availed to me through the Young Professionals in Agricultural Development (YPARD)- Uganda Chapter and the AgriProFocus platform so that I represent my organization, Rakai Environmental Conservation Programme (RECO). The workshop was fully funded under the Special Initiative ONEWORLD No Hunger (SEWOH) coordinated by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Dr. Stefan Schmitz, the Deputy Head of Directorate of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development- Germany, opened the workshop and saying, “When we hold discussions with young people from different countries, we get to know that no two countries or continents are the same. Africa’s problems are different from Asia’s. But we can identify common solutions, common opportunities and share common perspectives. What is common is that, we all sense a gap between city life and rural life. The gap needs to be filled. When rural life is better, then there is better life and global development.”
Fact based decisions are essential. Earlier on we had an interactive plenary session about the results from the first Africa-wide mobile study among ten thousand young Africans on the Future of the Rural World facilitated by Ingo Melchers. From the study, it was highlighted that Africa’s youth are facing problems including income and jobs, inadequate public goods and services and poor policies on agriculture. Encouragingly, African youth showed powerful optimism for the future.
In a related programme, we visited the Deutsche Welle (DW) TV and shared our visions and also interacted with the German government officials, development practitioners, Journalists and the investors as well. This public plenary discussion with the media and interested public was opened by Mr. Guther Beger the Director General at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Mr. Guther emphasized that young Africans are the future of Africa with rich ideas and all actors need to support innovations and provide incentives for entrepreneurship in order to change the rural future. Dr. Schmitz later supplemented that access to finance, markets, land, energy, water and good business environment are important to create jobs for the youths in rural areas. It is evident that public-private investments in rural areas are important to fully utilise Africa’s biggest assets-the rural youths.
Mr. Lutz Hartmann, an investor in Ethiopia who is the member of the board of Afrika- Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft (German-African Business Association) and cofounder of the FruitBox Africa GmbH was concerned about the lack of skilled and experienced personnel in the administration and the field which severely affects the decision-making process.
The workshop enabled us - young people from different backgrounds unite with one heart despite the diversity. During the workshop, we identified the key challenges and pitched solutions and as well shared our visions, best practices and personal success stories. Thanks to the facilitators who took us through the processes and made us further affirm that our generation has power and knowledge that no previous generations has ever had. With these we can create the rural future we want.
However action does not start with action but rather a paper. All of us participants got our views integrated in the ‘Charter of Berlin’ draft. The ‘Charter of Berlin’ will be an important outcome from the G20 conference that will focus on “The Future of the Rural World. Innovation-Youth-Employment” on 27 and 28 April 2017. It was an honour to be part of the preparation team for the ‘Charter of Berlin’ that will be shared with various stakeholders from the world of politics, the private sector, academia and civil society.
There will be more speeches and workshops about rural development; about the apparent shame that rural areas are neglected - they started several years ago.. This time round, I am very optimistic that as the various actors share information with and not for the rural people, then the ‘rural future we want’ should not be in future. Like I said during the interview that was shared at Deutsche Welle (DW) TV, rural development must meet urban development and we need this to be done now.
Photo credit: Julie Falk