Ingo Melchers is currently doing a sabbatical. He has been working in development cooperation for nearly 30 years, mainly in the field of rural development. His activities have included that of an agricultural policy advisor on integrating smallholders in the market in poor regions of Brazil.
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In one of the most important policy fields in development cooperation, rural development, German NGOs are not maintaining a convincing discourse, our author claims. Why the African continent isn’t benefiting from Western criticism of prosperity.

Combating poverty and supporting agricultural development deserve a high status in German development cooperation. In addition to the construction industry, it is above all agriculture that holds the potential to get millions of young, unskilled people into productive employment as quickly as possible. The case of Algeria shows that this does not go without saying. There, eleven generals – known as “Barons” – control the imports of everything that the Algerians need. Local production of food would undermine the Barons’ business model. To them, “politics” means defending their monopolies and privileges. In contrast, forward-looking and politically responsible politics in Africa means strengthening the political and economic actors committed to the goal of economic development with a broad impact – businesses that invest, civil society organisations which stand up against despotism and for the rule of law, politicians and parties that seek to create an environment conducive to employment. Sustainable impacts are achieved – provided that the local producers raise their productivity.

The private sector – an important partner

However, it is not the governments on their own – let alone development cooperation – that are capable of mastering this task of the century. Hundreds of thousands of small, medium and large enterprises are called on here to grasp new opportunities, try out business models holding good prospects, introduce innovations – in a nutshell, to take risks and create jobs. The obvious consequence for development cooperation is to seek collaboration with businesses in Africa, but also from Europe, that are eager to invest in Africa and develop its future. Correspondingly, it is the practice of rural development performed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to support innovative approaches and actors with broad participation. The result is that the promotion of agricultural value chains can show impressive figures.

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