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Youth and Agribusiness

Africa is the second largest and most populous continent on earth with a population of 1.2 billion people (AFP, 2017) having a high population of younger people, 41% of Africans yet under the age of 15 and the continent’s growth is predicted to double by 2050.

African youths are estimated to be 364 million between the age of 15 & 35, a figure expected to also double by 2045 (AGRA, 2015), suffice to say that Africa has the youngest population of the world and It is important to pay attention to the burgeoning youth population.

The population growth rate is obviously not concomitant to the socioeconomic growth rate hence the resultant unemployment rise. It’s been observed that a breakneck figure of 10-12 million African Youth seek to enter the continent’s workforce, an exercise in futility for many.

The World Bank reports that “Youth account for 60% of all African unemployed and 70% of African youth also live on less than US$2/day. This is evidently a challenge to the leadership of the African Union member nation.

In 2009, African Leaders met in Addis Abba, Ethiopia in a bid to find a lasting solution to the challenges of youth unemployment, they declared 2009-2018 as “Africa Youth Decade” and made a strong resolve to ensure resources mobilization from private sector for youth development but then again, our youths must understand that Agribusiness will foster job creation and that their engagement in Agriculture sector is important to deal with the scourge of unemployment and poverty across the board.

I cannot hide my awkward feelings to the youth unemployment statistics, it is staggering and heart-breaking however, the good news is that Agriculture has in it a seed of greater benefit and has the potential to solve unemployment issues with its growing capacity to accommodate more youth in verified and valuable employment.

The potentials of Agribusiness are endless, the World Bank did project that Agriculture and Agribusiness in Africa will grow to be a US$ 1 trillion industry in Africa by 2030 just as it averages 24% of GDP across the continent and with the growing world population estimated to reach 9 billion people by 205o, the world will wittingly depend on Africa in years to come to feed her, especially as she has the world largest arable land resources.

As I moved around, I realise that many youths are interested in Agribusiness however there are a lot of impediments to their fruitful engagement and it is pertinent to cast a shadow on issues that prevent youth from wilfully engaging in Agriculture and opting instead to seek white collar jobs in urban areas.

There is no doubt about the fact that Agriculture has been ill-conceived by youth as “ruralized ” and done by elderly and due to growth in urbanization, youths abandon Agriculture and Agribusiness in rural areas in search for “better” opportunities in Urban areas, one key reason for overpopulation in some cities of African countries i.e. Lagos, Johannesburg etc.

Furthermore, Agriculture is inherently labour intensive, with difficult working conditions and high risks and although the profession require energy, innovation and physical strength, in tandem with the thoughts of Strive Masiyinwa, Agriculture has to be dynamic and profitable to attract youths.

Youth can drive sustainable Agribusiness initiatives but less fruition can be recorded if key players don’t play their roles effectively. It is evident and indubitable that Africa Agricultural Plan also known as the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Growth Development Program (CAADP) is intended to bring about job, large economic gain, reduction in hunger etc. Member nations must take the bull by the horn by translating agenda to reality and avoid paying lip service to the development of the sector by relinquishing the 10% of national budget pledge at the Malabo Declaration in due time and creating an atmosphere conducive to structure and catalyse finance and investments into agribusiness.

The Agenda 2063 of the African Union Commission is quite ambitious and it is committed to promoting food security in Africa. The respective governments have resolved to support Agriculture development and as a portion of the document reads, “Africa’s agriculture will be modern and productive, using science, technology, innovation and indigenous knowledge. The hand hoe will be banished by 2025 and the sector will be modern, profitable and attractive to the continent’s youth and women” and to this end, youths need to mastermind innovative start-ups that would produce innovative technologies to improve agriculture while business incubators like African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN) and others provide financial and practical assistance to these innovative agripreneurs as they grow their enterprises to self-sufficiency.

Many Africa Youth are tech and social media savvy and find it difficult to “lay their arms” for Agriculture as they are confused on how and where they can use their 21st century skills effectively in Agriculture, thanks to #ICT4Ag and the growing e-Agriculture project of Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), youth can use their hands-on digital marketing skills and prolific ICT knowledge and skill to take Agribusiness to the next level, foster job creation taking a cue from projects like Sooretul (Senegal), Farmerline (Ghana), FarmCrowdy (Nigeria), Esoko (Kenya & other countries of Africa) etc. where youth-led agribusinesses leverage on ICT to create value.

Value is what guarantee rewards but first, youth in Africa must see themselves as valuable, by this they can attract supports, like that of the African Union Commission as entrenched in her 2017 theme, “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth”, it is important for youth to see themselves in light of being a Continental asset capable of determining development trajectory of Africa. (AU, 2017)

Enough said, my charge is simple, Youth in Africa, the time is now, you can take agribusiness development and job creation to the next level, you can innovate and create technological tools that can put an end to post-harvest losses in Agriculture, you can engage policy makers to create favourable Agribusiness policies, you can attract investments to your small scale businesses, you can attract incubation and mentorship from agribusiness champions, you can execute viable agribusinesses, you can access linkages with markets and finance and also popularize your achievements using social Media. If it has to be, it is up to you.

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