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A new emerging rural world: an overview of rural change in Africa

The revised and supplemented 2nd edition of the atlas A new emerging rural world: an overview of rural change in Africa takes stock of rural restructuring in Africa, both North and sub-Saharan. Prepared as background to the 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum which endorsed the Yaoundé’ Declaration and Plan of Action for Africa rural development in the framework of the NEPAD Rural Futures Programme, the atlas describes the current dynamics  challenging rural and urban development and proposes a series of different perspective to deal with the multisectoral and cross-cutting changes characterising rural – and urban – Africa.

The atlas, developed through24 different sectionsanalysising diverse topics (agriculture by 2050, youth employment, livestock, large-scale land acquisitions, water issue, wood sector, mining sector), was widely praised by the participants in the 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum and isdue to be presented shortly to the European Union, the main donors in the rural sector and African Heads of State at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa scheduled in late January 2017.

According to the atlas, only a small number of countries have so far initiated structural change in rural areas, with more diversified, wealthier economies that are supported by territorially balanced urbanisation with a high density of economic activity and more effective integration in the global economy. Elsewhere, economic changes paint a mixed picture, in which structural elements still override recent dynamics. Agriculture remains the bedrock of activity for a predominantly rural population and urbanisation is continuing, mainly in capitals, based on an informal sector that makes it difficult to finance infrastructure needed and to shift the balance to other cities and rural areas. These dynamics accentuate the “metropolisation movement” with public authorities paying growing attention to urban matters to the detriment of rural affairs. However, the rural area, and particularly agricultural sector, still has the greatest potential to boost economic development and contribute to inclusive and sustainable growth for rural and urban population, in line with the 2030 SDGs Agenda and the Africa’s Union Agenda 2063.  

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Giorgia MEI
2 December 2016

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