Report warns 800m more people will join the African labour force over 30 years

Commissioner Phil Hogan says rural development is leading the way in EU-Africa political co-operation

Tom Arnold: he launched a joint EU-African Union paper on the African rural economy

Nothing short of the transformation of the African economy and its agri-food sector will be needed to meet the challenge of some 800 million more people entering its labour force in the next 30 years, agricultural economist Tom Arnold warned in Brussels on Thursday.

Mr Arnold was launching a joint EU-African Union paper on the African rural economy as part of what the EU sees as an important contribution to a new partnership of equals with Africa from a task force he chaired for commissioner Phil Hogan.

“Africa’s population has doubled over the past 30 years, and is projected to double again over the next 30 to reach 2.5 billion by 2050,” Mr Arnold told journalists.

“How to generate enough jobs and income to meet the needs of this additional 800 million people over a 30-year period as part of the 1.25 billion population increase is one of the great political and economic challenges of our time.”


Launched in May 2018 by the European Commission, the task force was set up to provide advice on strengthening the Africa-Europe partnership in food and farming.

“Agriculture and rural development policy is leading the way in EU-Africa political co-operation,” said agriculture and rural development commissioner Mr Hogan.

The report, in line with the EU’s new Africa strategy, advocates operating dialogue at three levels: people to people, business to business, and government to government. “The partnership would be based on African political and policy leadership, supported by European experience, expertise and finance,” said Mr Arnold.

The emphasis is on “territorial” or locally-based mechanisms that will range from farming educational programmes, to twinning and exchanges, encouragement to private sector investment, intra-African trade initiatives and the development of innovation hubs.

Land management

The report also calls for the use of climate action cash to be used for sustainable land management. It calls for a special focus on family farms, sustainable agriculture intensification, and the development of new enabling systems for the agri-food sector.

It urges support for value-chain development through local action programmes, and new means of accessing cash for investments.

Mr Hogan said EU cash had already been forthcoming, with €85 million in external investment guarantees already pledged, and he hopes to get a major commitment written in to the next seven-year budget which is currently under negotiation.

The report, An Africa-Europe Agenda for Rural Transformation, will be put out for consultation, and is set to be centre-stage at the EU-AU ministerial summit in June.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times