Public-private partnerships boost capacity and know-how in agriculture

FAO and Ireland  strengthen the agricultural sector in Africa through public-private partnerships 

Key Facts

Until the 1970s, the Irish farming sector held a number of similarities to that of many developing agricultural sectors today: with over a quarter of the population employed on small farm holdings with little access to value-added opportunities and mass emigration from rural areas. During the 1990s, Ireland’s food sector began a rapid transformation process. Today, it is a world leader in food safety, traceability and environmental sustainability, accessing high-value food markets in the European Union, Asia and the United States. In an ongoing project, FAO is working with Ireland and the African Union Commission to help facilitate a flow of ideas between the two entities to help provide useful exchanges and solutions for mutual challenges in their agricultural sectors, with a particular focus on the importance of partnerships with the private sector.

Importance of Public-Private Partnerships

Against a background of limited government resources, innovative partnerships that bring together businesses, government and civil society are increasingly important for improving productivity and driving growth in agriculture and food sectors around the world.  The public sector and the private sector have contrasting but complementary advantages – when used together, great things can be achieved.

In agriculture, these Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs) have the potential to make a real impact. Agri-PPPs combine the operational and economic efficiency of the private sector with the public sector’s role as an enabling environment and regulator that ensures social interests are considered. PPPs have the potential to modernise the agriculture sector and deliver benefits that can contribute to inclusive and sustainable agricultural development. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) clearly define the need for more constructive relationships between public policy, the private sector, research, science and education for all sectors including food and agriculture. Through Agri-PPPs, we can encourage sustainable, long-term agricultural development with solid financial backing.

FAO, Ireland and the African Union Commission (AUC)

With vast areas of uncultivated arable land and the youngest population in the world, Africa has the potential to feed not only its own continent but much of the world. Growing population, increasing urbanisation and mounting pressure on sustainable and ethical food production are transforming diets and the way food is produced. Being competitive requires considering these changes and finding innovative ways to adapt to them.

What is the best way to do that? As the Irish example shows, having a clear agricultural strategy that involves all the stakeholders, including the private sector, is the base for transforming the sector. Ireland’s experiences with partnering with the private and public sectors to transform its agricultural production represent an opportunity for North-South cooperation, allowing the countries to exchange lessons on building sustainable and nutritious agri-food sectors.

Through FAO’s Triangular Cooperation Programme and the Hand-in-Hand initiative, FAO, the AUC and the Government of Ireland have been working together on this topic. In 2017, ten African countries represented the African continent at a workshop in Ireland, with leaders from the public and private sector participating. This workshop and learning journey to Ireland allowed participating countries to share experiences and learn about the successes of the Irish Agrifood sector.

To continue this knowledge exchange, FAO, the AUC, the Government of Ireland and the Government of Rwanda as the host, then organized a 4-day Executive Coaching event. Held in the Kigali in July 2019, this workshop designed for African leaders from the public sector and food industry focused on engaging the private sector in sustainable food systems development.

The executive coaching led country teams representing the food industry and ministries of agriculture, trade and planning to identify the key points needed to transform their respective countries’ agri-food sectors.


As a result of ideas shared in the workshop, the country teams began implementing the strategies in their respective countries.

In Kenya, the participants met with the Permanent Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Agriculture. The PS has committed the next two years to implementing a number of initiatives that will strengthen private sector engagement in the strategy. This includes the establishment of a platform for private sector actors in the agriculture sector, a High-Level Committee to involve stakeholders from the private and public sector to have their say and procedures for engaging the private sector in the execution of the Agriculture Transformation strategy.

In Uganda, a FAO-organized follow up meeting with the government led to the formulation of a strategy for engaging the private sector in Uganda’s new National Agricultural Investment Plan. FAO and the AUC will continue to support these national processes, beginning with a tailored training for Ugandan officials in December 2019 to support the launch of its  Agriculture Sector Strategy Plan in 2020. The event will include peer exchanges with public and private sector representatives from Kenya and the Republic of Ireland.

Agribusiness can play a critical role in jump-starting Africa’s economic transformation, thereby reducing rural poverty, offering nutritious food and providing jobs for the millions of young Africans who enter the labour force each year.

Recognising that the Sustainable Development Goals can only be met with partnerships at every level, FAO actively facilitates these collaborations worldwide and has developed a set of guidelines for public-private partnerships, to help encourage a collaborative and innovative approach to agribusiness development.

PPPS for agribusiness development is critical for SDG 2, ensuring the sustainable and resilient food systems needed to deliver healthy diets and SDG 1, eradicating poverty.


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