Green Revolution for Africa

Past Program

Dec 01 - Dec 04, 2013

Africa's Growth Engine: Partnerships for Rural Enterprise and Impact at Scale


According to the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), poverty remains largely a rural phenomenon (see Rural Poverty Report 2011) and, despite a broad range of natural and human resources, is in abundant evidence in Africa. Unless improvements are made to enable new enterprise to develop and to allow entrepreneurs to operate more easily, moving mass number of people out of poverty in rural Africa will remain an enormous challenge and much of Africa's potential will go unrealized.

In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on enterprise development to reduce poverty, especially the possibilities for private-sector-led rural development to more rapidly lift whole communities and areas out of poverty. Clearly there are critical cautions that need to be attended to; but as leading private sector actors better understand and create their own business case for sustainability, companies are operating differently and looking to build more sustainable local supply chains that also help create new markets over time by supporting poverty reduction developments. Investments can be complicated and take time to show bottom-line results, but the evidence is building that there is a financial, as well as social and environmental, benefit. There are also considerable risks - for the companies, but more significantly for vulnerable communities. The importance of the continued role of community activists and advocates, and support from development and donor institutions cannot be overstated. How these diverse actors engage with each other and create successful partnerships remains challenging. There is a growing body of knowledge - of what has worked well and what has not - but building out the knowledge-to-practice chain has been a slow and uneven process. There is no doubt that meeting the needs and demands of rural poverty in Africa will require cooperation among "strange bedfellows" that will need to create mutual trust, language, culture, etc.

The Salzburg Global Seminar intends to bring a cross-section of those diverse actors together and create a platform through which they can better understand what are the 'maximum roles' each sector can viably assume, and what are the limitations that require the other partners to step in and lead. These distinctions are not conceptual - they have very real implications for how key actors interact and understand each other and, ultimately, what impact they can have in unleashing and supporting enterprise development and reducing poverty through sustainable measures.

The program will examine current trends and key assumptions that are driving renewed interest in private-sector-led development approaches and how these intersect with pro-poor and pro-women business development strategies. Participants will address practical questions related to the "what" and "how" of successful efforts to enable leaders and practitioners to better understand and apply lessons learned and create plans that can be implemented for increased success. Importantly, a platform is needed that facilitates trust and relationship building across sectors that continue to struggle to understand and cooperate with one another. The Salzburg Global Seminar program will be an important step in that process.

Working in cooperation with a range of key actors including business leaders, donors, development practitioners and community leaders, ensuring that non-traditional decision-makers, in particular women, are fully represented, the program will explore innovations that are having an impact and help to identify opportunities to better connect and scale successful interventions across Africa. Among the questions to be examined:

  • How can the progress that is being made in African rural enterprise development, especially through multi-sector partnerships, be scaled and expanded more rapidly? How can the demonstrated benefit of working with women producers become integrated in business strategies?
  • What are the most critical aspects of creating an enabling policy environment to ensure that all people, including women and those without land rights, can participate?
  • What are best practices in establishing multi-sector partnerships for pro-poor rural business development, and how can these be expanded to enable more rural populations to make agriculture and non-farm work more stable, sustainable and profitable?
  • How can innovations across industries be shared to better effect to help scale successes and translate experience to applied knowledge? Where are the game-changers that can be leveraged through more investment, such as technology, new financial tools, or large scale policy changes?

Session Report