On Friday 2nd December 2016, close to 25 young African agricultural entrepreneurs from various countries in the continent were welcomed at the AfDB's headquarters in Abidjan as part of a seminar and series of experience-sharing workshops. The event was organized by the Bank's Agriculture and Agro-Industries Department (OSAN), which is led by Chiji Ojukwu and supported by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, as well as the Ministry for the Promotion of Youth, Youth Employment and Civic Engagement in Côte d'Ivoire. The minister Sidi Timéoko Touré gave the opening address.
For these successful "agripreneurs", this was to be an opportunity to talk about their journeys and professional choices, and share their experiences, so that they can help other young Africans working in the agricultural sector. Young farmers working in Côte d'Ivoire, as well as experts on the agricultural sector from the Bank were also invited. The seminar took place as part of the Bank's "ENABLE Youth" programme ("giving young people the means", ed.).
ENABLE Youth to support young African agripreneurs, the driving force behind the Africa of tomorrow
In July 2016, the Bank had already organized in Abidjan, and again in partnership with the Ivorian Ministry for the Promotion of Youth, Youth Employment and Civic Engagement, a workshop on the implementation of the "Enable Youth" programme in Côte d'Ivoire.
"ENABLE Youth" (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth) is a programme for young African people (18-35 years old) wanting to start a business in the agricultural sector, borne out of the Dakar High Level Conference on Agricultural Transformation in Africa and which enjoys the support of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, which has its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. It works to promote, enhance, and modernize agricultural entrepreneurship in Africa. In order to do this, the Bank offers its support in capacity strengthening, promoting professionals working in agriculture, and financing projects of young people in the sector. According to the president of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, who delivered the closing speech at the event, we must "think big" for African agripreneurs (see this video that was filmed in April 2016).
And their goals are ambitious: "ENABLE Youth" is working to help launch 300,000 agribusinesses and create 8 million jobs in some 30 African countries over the next five years. Above all, it is counting on young people to develop Africa's agricultural future, an African agriculture that relies on innovation, technologies, and modernization of techniques and practices, as well as on the development of the value chain in the sector.
Offering strong and strategic support to young agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa is in keeping with the High Five priorities the Bank has set itself under the aegis of the Bank's president, Adesina: firstly, feed Africa, which resulted in the recently approved strategy for 2016-2025; secondly, industrialize Africa; and finally, improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
Securing the future of young people for a prosperous Africa tomorrow
The figures speak for themselves: the number of young Africans is set to double between now and 2050, reaching 840 million people. Above all, of the 10 to 12 million young newcomers to the labour market each year, only 3 million find decent, sustainable work.
On the other hand, 60% of the working population in Africa are employed in the agricultural sector, representing almost a third of the continent's GDP. But the sector remains weak, with low levels of industrialization, very little support from the banks and low productivity. It is also too dependent on rainfall and vulnerable to the effects of climate change. And it is not currently able to guarantee food security.
Combining the inventive young people of our continent, their energy and their sense of innovation with the best technologies and practices in the agricultural sector is a win-win venture for the AfDB.