The African Development Bank (AfDB) says it is advocating closer linkages between development partners and policymakers to enhance the informal sector's contribution to building an African food and cuisine value chain.
Like many other economic activities in Africa, large segments of the food value chain are mainly informal.The Bank's proposition was made at a B2B (business-to-business) meeting on 'AfDB's ENABLE Youth platform: The Economics of Food Cuisine' at the 7th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), held from September 4-8, 2017, in Abidjan.
The side event was organized by the African Development Bank's Gender, Women and Civil Society Organizations Department together with the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department of the AfDB, and Hivos International, a global organization that works for sustainable economies and inclusive societies.
Basil Jones, Gender Program and Policy Coordinator at the bank, said, "We have looked at the culinary potential of African food in the creation of jobs and helping us to deal with the challenge of youth unemployment. This investment in growing Africa's culinary culture could become our trademark to stimulate the tourism sector. It would also go towards strengthening Africa's emerging cultural identity in the international scene."
The session provided an opportunity to make a presentation on AfDB's 'ENABLE Youth Platform: The Economics of Food Cuisine' and discuss with public and private stakeholders the role of food and cuisine value chains in Africa and their contribution to the economy, including job creation.
The Economics of Food Cuisine Knowledge-Sharing initiative is part of the African Development Bank's ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) Youth Program and intends to balance and support the AfDB's High 5 priorities, especially the Jobs for Youth and Industrialization programs. By looking at more downstream activities such as the food service and gastronomy industry, the African food and cuisine offers a different entry point into agricultural value chains.
The goal of the platform: to enhance the viability of food entrepreneurs, especially women and youth, seeking to start and grow a food-related business through knowledge-sharing; mentorship services; skills development; access to finance by linking the platform to crowdfunding schemes targeting agribusinesses; and blogging.
At 1.2 billion today, Africa's population is projected to more than double by 2050. Youth make up a large part of Africa's population and the majority of the unemployed. This is one of the most pressing socioeconomic issues in Africa.
Through its Jobs for Youth initiative, the bank is investing in high-growth and emerging sectors that have the potential to promote youth and women's economic empowerment and create 25 million jobs over the next decade, said Edson Mpysi, coordinator of the ENABLE Youth Program.
The creative industries, such as textile, fashion, food, culinary arts and film, are part of these "new economies" that utilize agriculture products offering massive potential for continent-wide job and GDP growth, said Vanessa Moungar, AfDB director of Gender, Women and Civil Society Organizations. AfDB and Hivos International have partnered and developed an inclusive end-to-end strategy that enables innovative entrepreneurs to become agents of change at the forefront of a more sustainable agrifood sector in Africa.
"The Food Cuisine initiative is the unique combination of an on-the-ground business capacity support and network building program combined with a one-stop-shop digital platform. It connects, informs and enables Africa's fast-growing community of agrifood professionals," said Marnix Van Holland, Program Development manager, Hivos International.
Young entrepreneurs will be placed in agribusiness incubators where they will receive training along the different phases of the value chain (input, production, marketing, retail) as well as in business development.
The bank estimates Africa's culinary industry is currently valued at US$313 billion. The food and beverage market is projected to reach US$1 trillion by 2030. It is imperative that the continent harnesses this potential in order to shrink employment - especially that of women and youth - create rural prosperity and improve food and nutrition security.
The bank aims to empower the African food community, support young entrepreneurs, connect food innovators and provide a platform to showcase new products from the continent.
The online platform targets stakeholders in the food industry to offer young women and men operating in the agricultural value chains the opportunity to pursue diverse careers in this sector, providing vocational training, financial literacy, access to resources and networks.
The platform will also offer users an online business management tool allowing entrepreneurs a chance to develop their business plan within the shortest period at no cost.
This section will support and guide entrepreneurs, operating in the food and beverage industry, through all the processes of starting and running a business, which includes generating the business plan, create financial projections and track progress, said Emanuela Gregorio, AfDB Gender and Innovation Economist
The online platform will integrate with existing e-commerce and crowdfunding platforms across the continent to promote intra-African trade by showcasing and exposing agrifood to a larger African audience, according to Vuyo Tofile, founder of Entbanc Group, which is managing the platform.
Africa needs to move away from solely producing raw consumables and invest more in value-added processing units and branded food products, and focus more on downstream activities such as the food service industry.