5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Leading the change: Empowering women and girls for a thriving rural economy

Enhancing policy dialogue and cooperation on strengthening the role of women and girls in agriculture and rural areas

High-level panel - Auditorium
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
14:30 to 16:00

  • Public and private responsible investments to mobilise, incentivise and empower women and girls in the rural economy in Africa. The objective is to better coordinate African Union and European Union initiatives to increase investments in African sustainable agriculture, agribusiness and agroindustrial development.
  • Enhance policy dialogue and cooperation and how to provide the right framework to create decent jobs and bring sustainable growth in the African rural economy. We will examine women's access to finance, land and decision making, training, advice and information.
  • Share knowledge and know-how on best policies and mechanisms to empower women and girls in rural areas; develop employment opportunities and revenue-generating activities in regions of origin and transit of migrants

Key points

  • The linkage between agriculture and agro-business is essential to address food insecurity and Africa’s economic transformation.
  • Promoting access to land, promoting financial inclusions as well as private instruments, are essential in rural areas.
  • Successful development of the untapped employment and production potential requires a focused job strategy, in particular for women and girls across the continent.
  • An approach is needed that aims to support value-chain development, skills development and the improvement overall business climate.
  • Partnerships with government and the private sector and international organisations are essential to ensure the right business regulatory conditions for investment


The European Commission (EC) has plenty of plans and it is time to see action. Financial resources are needed to make it happen. Technical assistance has to be part of these programmes to ensure continuity.

The key areas for action to bring gap between the theory and practice are:

  • Investing in skills and productive capacity – giving women the necessary experience to build careers in the sector. We also need to facilitate access to new technologies and access to new capital.
  • Policies and agendas that tackle particular gender constraints, vocational training in agriculture and the food and drinks sector, could have a particularly major impact on women’s economic activity and food security.

A key area for action is agribusiness. The EC is supporting a project which aims to establish the EU-Africa Agribusiness Platform. This will strengthen links between the food and drinks industry in Africa and Europe. It will also help African entrepreneurs, both women and men, smallholders and family farmers by providing better access to markets.

Quality standards are important for market access. There has been a very successful programme in the European Union. African farms have a huge potential but must be able to demonstrate product quality.

African businesses must be prepared for digital transformation. New technologies can bring important productivity improvements and expand the market. eServices must be extended to Africa.

Research should be enhanced to promote more collaboration in research activities. This will provide the technological know-how to help both Africa and Europe as well as the environment.

The European Commission has set up a Rural Africa Task Force to bring all these ideas together and provide recommendations by the end of the year. The task force will look at how rural Africa should be transformed, particularly in terms of employment and the role women will play within that. The first meeting was held in May 2018.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been involved in setting up four industrial parks to bring in the technology on practical areas such as textiles, as well as the training, some money and access to the market. The parks are developed according to the local situation in terms of size and focus.

UNIDO has started to organise other support, particularly training for entrepreneurs. The majority are young women. Women should be encouraged and enabled to start up businesses. They are closely connected to the food sector, in growing, processing and selling. Part of the answer is to increase productivity at the farm level by improving the added value up the chain.

A major challenge is that women do not have access to land. The African Union is addressing the issue with a land policy initiative. Its aim is that 30 % of women should have access to land by 2025. Another initiative, the African Women Fund, has been set up. It is providing funds to women in countries such as Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania and Namibia in the order of US$ 25,000 to US$ 30,000 per project.

Integration is the future for Africa. Otherwise it will not be possible for farmers, big and small, to be successful.


The plans are all in place. The challenge and urgency is now to implement them in a timely fashion.

Organised by


Mella Frewen
Grace Kata Banda
Young Leader - Malawi
Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko
Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture
African Union Commission
Phil Hogan
EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
European Commission
Yong Li
Director General
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
Fatma Ben Rejeb
Panafrican Farmers Organisation (PAFO)
Tom Arnold
Chairman, DG AGRI/DEVCO Task for Rural Africa