Arusha — The ballooning number of young people in East Africa, now accounting for about a half of the total population, is worrying policy makers in the region due to scarcity of jobs.
The number continues growing while it is estimated that 75 per cent of East Africa's total population will be under the age of 34 by 2030.
"True rural transformation cannot be accomplished in the East African Community (EAC) bloc without empowering the youth as instruments of social change," said Dr Patrick Kormawa, Eastern Africa sub-regional coordinator for UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
He was speaking in Dar es Salaam early this week during the launch of the joint EAC and FAO Project on Youth Employment in the agricultural sector.
He said the UN agency was keen on youth employment in an agricultural value chain to enhance sustainable development, food security and rural poverty reduction.
"The niche of Fao lies in capacity development and institutional strengthening," he said, adding that the UN body's support would be extended to an agri-food chain especially small-scale, self-employed and informal agricultural jobs.
Highlighting worrying demographic trends in the region, Dr Kormawa called for corrective action on the part of the leaders because EAC was increasingly becoming home to an increasingly young and jobless population.
EAC deputy secretary-general (Productive and Social Sectors) Christophe Bazivamo said economic growth within the partner states was not generating enough jobs, especially those that employed the youth.
"Rural poverty and food insecurity remain persistent and are linked with this problem of jobless youth," he said in a speech, which was availed to The Citizen.
He said it was unfortunate that Africa spent more than $35 billion on food imports, which was a huge economic burden.
He identified post-harvest food losses as one of the contributory factors to food and nutritional insecurity in Africa with more than 30 per cent of food produced for human consumption being lost or wasted as a result of post-harvest losses.
In February this year, EAC and FAO signed an agreement under which the UN agency would grant the former $440,000 to promote urban and rural agriculture and agribusiness.