2 September 2014

Africa: Need to Create Jobs? Try Agriculture

Addis Ababa — The agriculture sector is more effective than the oil and gas sectors not only at creating jobs but boosting growth says, the Africa Progress Panel and Sipho Moyo of One during a session on the panel's report - Grain, Fish, Money - Financing Africa's Green and Blue Revolutions.

That's good news for Africans governments who need to address the challenge of unemployment generally but especially for young people.

The main finding of the report according to Kofi Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel, is that "if we want to accelerate Africa's transformation, then we must significantly boost our agriculture and fisheries, which together provides livelihoods for roughly two thirds of Africans".

But what's holding us back?

"The unacceptable reality is that too many African farmers still use methods handed down from generation to generation, working their lands or grazing their animals much as their ancestors have done for millenia", the report notes. This is echoed by Yohannes Tilahun, Senior Director of Public and Private Partnerships of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency during a session on investment opportunities in Ethiopia. "It's the ingrained way of doing things that's the challenge for us. We need to introduce new ways and educate people so that smallholder farmers become successful."

During his speech Kofi Annan emphasised the role of civil society in holding governments to account. Moyo reiterated this saying that civil society needs to pressure governments so that they honour their existing commitments to dedicate 10% of government spend to the agricultural sector.

Fisheries on the other hand is on the margins of the food security debate, says Executive Director of Greenpeace Africa Michael O'Brien Onyeka. He also discussed the challenge of illegal fishing in West Africa where artisanal fishing "provides the only source of income for many people" but fishing stocks are being depleted by illegal fishing, mostly by European countries.

But how does one make agriculture more appealing to young people?

One works with African artists to promote agriculture to young people. The collaboration with D'Banj, Diamond, Fally Ipupa, Femi Kuti,  and Omawumi on the song Cocoa Na Chocolate has helped to changed perceptions of agriculture among young graduates who are now enquiring about access to opportunities in the sector, says Moyo. "Not everyone wants to be a farmer, but there's an entire agricultural value chain that presents opportunities."

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