Rural development remains one of the most enduring challenges confronting the African state, peasants and development practitioners in the public and private sector. Some of these challenges are old (technology, management and finance), while others are new, stemming from rapidly changing regional and global contexts of development (how to harness new technologies, cope with climate change and increase productivity in a shrinking environmental space). However, these changing contexts and challenges of development have also opened up new opportunities never before available for rural Africa (better transport, marketing information flows, and ICT-facilitated emarkets, efinance, ebanking and input delivery systems).
The authors of this volume collectively turned their attention to a subject which has almost disappeared from the vocabulary of an African development scholarship consumed by a manifest craving for an “Africa rising” narrative based on industrialization and urbanization. Several voices, such as those reflected in this volume, called for a return to the future by privileging an integrated approach not only to rural development, but also to an integrated agro-industrialization as part of African structural transformation policies.
Two decades ago, when planning was considered heresy, the title Rural Development Planning in Africa would have been scorned. The volume also reflects the “return to planning movement” sparked by the 2009 financial crisis and African government adoption of long-term strategic development plans, covering a period of two to three decades. The authors seem to have parted with rather than affirming outdated development models often narrowly associating rural development with agriculture to the neglect of other sectors that are equally deserving for attention. Not surprisingly, the new context of African rural development planning is an all-encompassing activity situated within the realm of local governance and inspired by emergent powerful networks, including the state, international development partners, the private sector and rural communities.
The authors of Rural Development Planning in Africa have adopted an approach that expands conventional rural development planning trajectories by exploring the role of agriculture, finance and investment, rural-urban linkages and markets, energy, health, and water. While each chapter can be elaborated in a full-fledged volume, Meleckidzedeck Khayesi, the editor, has crafted a seminal introduction which stitches into an integrative whole what might seem from the outset to be a collection of disparate chapters.
Two facts add authenticity to this book: it is written by academics and professionals with hands-on, long-term experiences in the field of rural development, and some of them are rural development practitioners in their own right. In addition, all the authors, the majority of whom were raised and have lived in rural Africa, are a unique and welcome addition to an evolving African scholarship ushering in distinctive and context-specific approaches to African development. This volume is an inspirational read for those involved in the academic and policy debate on rural development in Africa and beyond.