Youth engagement thus needs to be urgently facilitated, according to speakers at the African Green Revolution Forum PreEvent on Youth Agripreneurs, organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB), Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) and Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan.
‘‘Agriculture will give us a competitive advantage as a continent when the youth are actively engaged. In order to achieve this, we must position agriculture in a different light. We need to remove the youth from the frame of mind that farming is a lackluster activity and get them to see its benefits as a profession. This can be done through the promotion of sport education via SEEDs, a 20 year fund,’’ Mr Amadou Fall, Vice President and Managing Director, Africa National BasketBall Assocaition (NBA).
The fund will provide finance each year to support sports education for the youth.
Up to 10 million youth join Africa’s labour force each year, making them central to any economic transformation on the continent. Without them, growth will even flounder. In Cote d’Ivoire, for example, the average age for cocoa growers is 63, meaning the industry’s future rests on mobilizing the youth into agripreneurship.
‘The average age of persons actively involved in agriculture is approximately 60 years despite the youth population in Africa. In order for agriculture to thrive in Africa, we need to get more youth to leverage on the upcoming technological advancements and improve on this sector. Women need to be moved from the informal sectors to the formal sectors so that they are able to improve on the overall agricultural production across the continent,’Ms. Vanessa Moungar, Director, Gender Women and Civil Society, AFDB
Panelists raised the challenges of achieving sustained youth engagement, observing that it was easy to attract the youth into agriculture, but difficult to keep their interest. A factor in this has been the mainstream media, which has portrayed farming as a lowly profession compared to careers in medicine and law.
Moreover, for the youth who have already become agripreneurs, the scale of the challenges often make them want to give up. A principle roadblock remains funding, even though there are over 30 countries in Africa running youth enabling programs and initiatives, and hundreds of incubator organizations committed to helping youngsters grow their business ideas.
Young agripreneurs also face difficulties attracting and retaining their own peers as employees.
An enabling environment rooted in detailed policies giving youth greater access to support as agripreneurs and mechanisms that offer mentorship and knowledge transfer will be critical for transforming agriculture in Africa and accelerating the path to prosperity, the session concluded.