Driving Africa's Growth Engine Through Rural Enterprise

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Dec 01, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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Driving Africa's Growth Engine Through Rural Enterprise

Participants from 13 countries review Africa's room for growth Tony Nsanganira and Mame Diene speaking at Salzburg Global during the opening session of "Africa's Growth Engine"

Business leaders, donors and development practitioners convened at Salzburg Global on Sunday for the start of a three-day workshop on multi-sector partnerships in Africa.

Participants met at Schloss Leopoldskron for the session entitled, ‘Africa’s Growth Engine: Partnerships for Rural Enterprise and Impact at Scale’.

Salzburg Global is coordinating the session alongside the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

One of the session’s aims is to 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.

In 2011, an IFAD report highlighted poverty as a largely rural phenomenon, something that is abundant in Africa.

It is arguable that if conditions were facilitated to improve enterprise, more people could escape poverty and further potential could be untapped.

Topics set to be discussed at the session include the ways to scale and expand multi-sector partnerships, the aspects of an enabling policy environment, and the innovations across industries that can be shared to better effect.

Salzburg Global hopes participants will be able to come together and create a platform whereby the maximum roles each sector can play are better understood.

Participants were welcomed on Sunday afternoon by Program Director for Gender and Philanthropy, Nancy Smith.

She challenged participants to work together and produce a road map for action.

“There is a lot that is happening in the field that is very exciting, but that learning isn’t necessarily being captured very well and it’s not being translated across sectors.

“One of the things we’re going to try and do in the next couple of days is to hold this tension between big drivers of change.”

Smith added: “We really want to try and get a bit deeper on looking at these questions of the roles of partnerships and scaling processes.”

Cheikh Sourang, senior program manager at the Strategic Planning Division of IFAD, then provided participants a background of the work the institution conducted.

His colleague, Maria Hartl, technical advisor on gender and social equity in the Policy and Technical Advisory Division, spoke after him.

She suggested the institution was scanning the horizon for ideas, looking at its strategic vision for 2018 and beyond.

After the 32 participants introduced themselves to one another, they spent the rest of the afternoon considering the macro environment, the drivers of change and challenges and opportunities that existed.

Mame Diene, founder and CEO of Laboratoires Bioessence, in Senegal, and Tony Nsanganira, Head of Agribusiness Department on the Rwanda Development Board, provided a joint lecture to the rest of the group.

Nsanganira discussed the history of Rwanda and how agriculture remained the backbone of the country’s economy.

He urged the private sector to take more of a lead and take advantage of the government’s investment.

Diene, meanwhile, argued to attract the private sector, market opportunities needed to exist.

She suggested that in Western Africa, every rural man and woman knew about main projects taking place as a result of past experiences with NGOs and partnerships.

This, however, created a problem for private enterprises that were looking to sell in these areas. People expected services and products to be provided for free.

The discussion then opened up to other participants, who questioned the duo on what the government could do better to help the rural poor, and queried the argument that rural development was purely about making money.

This also included a call by one participant who suggested creating an ecosystem for money that could be recycled, which would allow communities to be more sustainable.

As the day came to an end, participants left considering how to gain a better understanding of the current conditions.

They will now seek to outline the steps needed to create a multi-year initiative, working within smaller workgroups to identify some of the emerging themes to build from.