Sahel’s stability requires rural economic turnaround: UN

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Rome, July 3 (IANS/AKI) The economic transformation of rural areas and the creation of jobs for millions of young rural people are essential to stability in the Sahel, United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development President Gilbert Houngbo said.

“There can be no stability where there is poverty, hunger and no opportunities for millions of marginalized young people,” said Houngbo, who was to speak at a G7 ministerial meeting in Paris.

The Sahel has witnessed an unprecedented population boom, with over 60 per cent of its citizens now aged below 25. Two thirds of youth live in rural areas and are poorer and more often lack access to employment, skills, financial services and technology than adults, the IFAD said.

By 2050, the number of young people in the region aged 15-34 is forecast to increase by 46 million, it noted.

“If given the opportunity, young rural people can drive the economic development of their communities.

“But we need the right policies and investments in place before they can have any hope of doing so,” said Houngbo.

Today, the food sector is the backbone of the economy in the Sahel. It is the region’s biggest employer and generates more than 80 per cent of employment in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad. Of these jobs, three quarters are in agriculture, the IFAD underlined.

According to the IFAD, the growing global demand for food products, which is projected to increase 60 per cent by 2050, opens up opportunities for job creation, not only in food production but at the processing, packaging, transportation, distribution and retail levels.

While in Paris, Houngbo will attend the G7 working dinner focusing on the creation of decent work for young people in rural areas of the Sahel.

The dinner will be attended by G7 development Ministers and ministers from the G5 Sahel, which oversees cooperation between Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

–IANS/AKI

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