The statistics on youth demographics and labour market symmetry need urgent attention. There are approximately 200 million young people in the continent that faces over 60% unemployment rates. The agricultural value chain however has provided approximately 50-70% of employment to this productive age cohort but yet the agriculture sector still only contributes to around 25% of Africa's GDP.
Why is this the case?
It's because Africa has not yet leveraged its demographic dividend. Neither has harnessed the potential of the vast majority of human assets and Africa’s capital remains locked out of this economic sector across the entire agricultural value chain - from farming to research, innovation, product development and market participation. Decent job opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities in agribusiness and wealth creation are a possibility for young people in agriculture.
How can this be done?
- Moving beyond a pedagogic overhaul of the education curricula in inculcating agriculture but into value based education on the potential in the agricultural value chain
- Addressing investments in social capital; low education and literacy among young people in rural areas especially amongst women who often have fewer opportunities for gainful employment in farming and non-farming rural agricultural livelihoods
- Creation of altruism of agriculture from an early age of children from simple understanding that food doesn't come from the supermarket but from the farm and dealing with socio-cultural norms and ideologies passed down inadvertently by parents that agriculture and farming is a field children should work hard not to get into
- Girl child education prioritization, a generation of transformative that want the gender gap closed, and want to marry women that are educated, because that means healthy children and good nutrition
- Sustain and grow agribusiness investments need to be in accrediting education, from a country level to a regional economic communities level for design, implementation and inspection for example on quality of education within the private sectors of education flooding the continent
- Vocational education on agriculture needs to address the development of skills, create an awareness on potential of agribusiness, develop skills and capacities to sustain and grow the young peoples efforts in engagement of agriculture
- Opening up avenues for young people to obtain financial education, capital and profitability:
- Changing the paradigm of access to credit in rural financial institutions that is often tied to availability of collateral (usually land and assets) that young people do not have. Moving access to finance beyond provision of capital to a support framework that sustainably inculcates the use of new tools like micro-credit institutional mechanisms and ICT, mobile applications, to link the agricultural value chains including lending credence to emphasize the need for industrial financial service standards that are youth friendly
- Financial education, financial inclusion mechanisms need to focus on contextualizing the economic potential of African capital ides, create symmetry between all stakeholders, advance support on risk negotiation, ensure financial literacy to have an empowered mass of conscientised agro-preneurs able to drive the Blue and Green revolution industry in Africa
- African talent wants to stay at home and there has to be a strategic way to equip young inventors and innovators to understand their rights and that wealth creation starts from ideas and their ownership. Young people then will have the opportunity to enjoy the institutional covering the likes of Steve Jobs had to create an enabling environment of moving an idea into a "million dollar" institution.
- Attracting African human resource pool of capital will have to focus on market research contextualizing ideas and content young people have within the agriculture value chain into products that can be delivered to an already demanding market. This includes a focus on improved rural circles, additional investments, leasing, franchise ownership of brands and agro-processing trendy market oriented products
- Ensuring youth have legal redress, a regulatory framework that cushions the risk of engaging in agriculture
- Minimize restrictions of age, ID in land ownership and use
- Inclusion of youth as key actors, beneficiaries and equal stakeholders in policy discussions and instituted policies on the future of food, farming and development.
Rebranding and Repackaging of Agriculture
- Appreciating young agro-preneurs through Awards schemes to add impetus to their already existing efforts while using this to market how significant agriculture is to other indecisive potential agro-entrepreneurs
- Awareness creation and building momentum on enhancing a support framework able to introduce innovation into the agriculture sector hence enhancing a positive attitude among young people that business opportunities in agriculture exist
- Marketing a "short production cycle" theory of agriculture that will adduce evidence to ascertain that the agriculture value chain transcends beyond planting and harvesting
- Proving agriculture has high fiscal value through the assets approach and also emphasizing the regular income potential for young people who want to settle down and have families and be rest assured that they can provide financially for their households
Recommendations for the AGRF
- Creation of a multi stakeholder commitment for action with financing agro-entrepreneurs, and the integration of new technologies within the sectors value chain to meet the challenges of youth unemployment through a high-level political commitment
- Endorse creation of an African agriculture fund as a seed fund for capital access to entrepreneurs with pilot projects that have the scale and potential for expansion
- Creation of African youth agriculture awards to recognize actions and entrepreneurial ventures
- Expansion on the space to share experiences and best practices of inventions, innovations and creative integrated actions supporting new creative ways of young people taking advantage of the potential of agriculture to embrace new cultural industries and creative job sectors
- Commitment to improve policy design, formulation, implementation, programming and opportunities for financial education
- Promote intergenerational dialogue and policy recommendations to promote the creative economy and ingenuity of young people in shaping the future of agriculture at national and international development actors.
Lawrence Ndambuki Muli is the Programmes and Policy Advisor for the African Observatory for Policy Practice and Youth Studies
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia