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The Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands (MFTDC/BHOS) organized an online consultation for its upcoming policy note. The consultation focused on trade and international opportunities for Dutch companies, as well as development cooperation. Below you can read our contribution to the online consultation. INCLUDE’s input represents the connection between researchers, policy makers and practitioners from different African countries and within the Netherlands. For more information, visit the Online consultation web page.

Inclusive development and growth

While African countries experienced growth in the past decade, a large number of people are still excluded from the benefits of this progress. The Netherlands can be bolder in promoting inclusive development that aims to reduce poverty, both in income and non-income dimensions, and inequality, through improved redistribution. A meaningful long term operating strategy should include investments that can help developing countries upgrade their positions in the global value chain. This involves carefully designed and locally driven social investments and conscious job creation with local benefits. It also means that in the formulation of policies, the voices of those whom it is about should have the lead, not just be present or represented.

The Growth sectors for youth employment programme of INCLUDE has identified key growth sectors in Tunisia, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal and Mozambique. The sectors with highest potential for growth are agriculture and agribusiness, manufacturing, services, digitalization in the health and education systems, energy, and lastly industry and local processing of raw materials before export. The sectors with the highest potential vary per country. On top of promoting growth sectors, technological and knowledge transfer is necessary, as well as promoting responsible business practices for sustainability. For more on this, visit the ‘Dutch multinational businesses in Africa’ page.

Partnering with non-market actors such as civil society organizations (CSOs), knowledge institutions and public actors can help develop and embed innovations in the local market and align business models with local cultural, social, and political realities. For more information on this see the Research for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa (RIDSSA) programme that INCLUDE coordinated.

Youth employment in the green economy, and the digital economy

Efforts are still necessary to boost decent employment for youth in African countries and it is evident that youth themselves should be involved in the decision making processes. Girls face disparate barriers to decent employment, which require interventions that focus on access to finance, childcare services, and engaging with biases in access to jobs in certain sectors. Women generally occupy the more precarious and low-skilled positions within value chains, involving less capital, assets, lower income, and opportunities. INCLUDE provides a more in-depth analysis of agri-industrial value chains of cotton and fish in Uganda.

Overall, the agricultural sector remains the most important sector to invest in for a food secure future. In addition, agriculture continues to be the main employment sector in many countries, and a first pillar for further development and a rise in welfare and wellbeing of populations. Besides the above, promoting the green economy is a potential source for decent and green jobs. This means to shift from unsustainable practices to more sustainable ones, opening new opportunities for employment. Industries without smokestacks can play a role in this, including the (digital) services and tourism sector.

Governments and private sector actors, as well as NGOs and CSOs are increasingly looking to digital solutions for contemporary problems. However, this may cause the creation of a digital divide between those who can access and participate in the digital turn and those who cannot. Can we turn this divide into a digital dividend for all? Digitalization of various public services, but also the role of digitalization in innovation with private sector actors is an upcoming theme of interest for INCLUDE.

Bridging the gap between research, policy, and practice

Bridging the gap between research, policy and practice is a continuous effort that the Netherlands can contribute to. Established and dedicated knowledge platforms play a key role in this, and the Netherlands has several thematic Knowledge Platforms that have demonstrated quality as knowledge brokers, synthesizers and producers. Coordination and sharing knowledge and lessons learned between and within programmes of Dutch development cooperation can help prevent the reinvention of the wheel.

The key aspect to this is to get everyone involved in a theme or issue to come together and engage in a dialogue. The African Policy Dialogues, organized by INCLUDE and its partners, are set between government, research, and other involved stakeholders in specific policy themes. In cooperation with other countries, organizations and knowledge institutions, the Netherlands can leverage its strength as knowledge promotor (see for example the collaboration between INCLUDE/IDRC/ILO with Decent Jobs for Youth).

Lessons learned from COVID-19: social protection and food security

The Covid 19 pandemic, as well as the war in Ukraine, show once again the absolute necessity to increase the continent’s agricultural productivity (especially in rice, maize, cereals, livestock, dairy, fish, and poultry) to ensure food self-sufficiency and even to become a net exporter. Resilience to shock and the mitigation of its effects is crucial in times of a pandemic. Inequalities and vulnerabilities that already existed were exacerbated, with COVID-19 being a crisis upon crises. The lessons we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic should be used to improve and focus the Dutch development cooperation. These lessons include that socio-economic recovery should be directed at youth, women and vulnerable or excluded groups.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many governments and humanitarian organizations scaled up their efforts in direct cash transfers. We also highlighted this during our INCLUDE’s conference back in June 2021. Social protection in a redistributive manner tackles some of the inherent inequalities in the economic systems. The Netherlands could show more leadership in actively promoting social protection. Social protection is not charity, it is a right. Holistic social protection programmes are absolutely necessary, not only in terms of tackling vulnerabilities that are exacerbated during or after future shocks, but also to boost economic growth.

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