Africa is currently endowed with a large population of young people with 65% of the population of Africa being below the age of 35. These figures present an enormous opportunity that, if leveraged, could turn around the continent’s food fortunes and drive its economic growth.
During the just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, US President Barack Obama announced a US$1.0 Billion fund for African youth & women. The youth are privileged to be experiencing unprecedented good will from governments, private sector and the donor community.
10 million youth enter the labor market annually. Two out of three inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 25; Poverty, poor health, hunger and lack of education limit the potential of these youth to increase productivity and agricultural incomes. With 40% of the total unemployed being youth and 70% of these living in rural areas, it is time the youth stepped up to their place in Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.
This week, over 300 Youth agriculture entrepreneurs will gather together with private sector and academia at the Olive convention center in Durban South Africa for the CCARDESA Youth in agriculture summit for Southern Africa. The summit is poised to revolutionize and unlock agribusiness opportunities for the youth in this region.
AGRA sees the value and, in fact, the critical need of investing in empowering youth to strengthen and sustain the foundation for African agricultural transformation in the future. This summit provides a great opportunity to increase the understanding of the specific needs of young people, improving the capacity of youth to profitably engage in activities along the agricultural value chain, to improve youth employment and business opportunities along the value chain, increase small holder farm productivity and improve access to markets and financing, and to improve the policy environment for youth participation in agriculture and agribusiness.
Our intention to boost youth engagement and opportunities in agriculture is gaining traction. AGRA is supporting the development and deployment of ICT applications to improve input and output markets through its mfarms application in 17 countries. The number of mfarm beneficiaries over the last 4years is slightly over 73,400. This week, AGRA will also be supporting the development of more ICT solutions for agriculture through a hackerthon that will be running on the sidelines of the summit. The youth are willing to farm, but only if they can generate returns quickly. This therefore presents an opportunity for innovative solutions in financing and access to markets. That way we can have youth engaging in farming in new ways as well as working in the surrounding industries in terms of inputs, services and value adding agribusiness.
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