In 2014, African Heads of State committed to create job opportunities for 30 per cent of the continent’s youth through agriculture by 2025 under what is called the Malabo Declaration.
Yet, according to Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture at African Union (AU), the continent is still off the pace to achieve this this target.
Sacko, who was one of the delegates at the just-concluded conference on youth employment in agriculture in Kigali, urges African countries to shift to Agribusiness if they are to achieve this ambition.
With Africa’s youth population expected to double to over 830 million by 2050 if properly harnessed, Africa Development Bank (AfDB) says, this increase in the working age population could support increased productivity and inclusive economic growth across the continent.
However, only three million formal jobs are created, annually, despite the fact that 10-12 million youth seek to enter the workforce each year, the bank says.
In addition, the youth don’t find agriculture attractive.
It is true, Sacko said, that “youth don’t find agriculture attractive...because they say that it is an activity that is not profitable.”
Another perspective that has been advanced is that the youth consider agriculture to have a lot of drudgeries.
According to Sacko, to overcome such challenges, the continent must modernise agriculture by removing those drudgeries through mechanisation and modernised irrigation so as not to rely on rain-fed crop system.
“Agribusiness is the way forward to attract the youth and to make agriculture profitable because you go through all the value chain,” she observed.
To alleviate poverty, she said, the continent has to provide jobs in the agriculture sector. Citing examples in Asia and Latin America she added that transforming agriculture into a business that involves the youth is the way forward.
“When you go to value chain and the processing, you create job opportunities because you are going towards the industrialisation. When you transform your raw materials, you create a strong industry,” she explained.
The Director General of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, said that in the next 15 years, nearly 220 million young people will enter the labour market in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. This, he said, makes it fundamental to improve the absorption capacity of domestic labour markets.
Food demand in Africa is projected to grow by more than 50 per cent in the coming years due to continued population growth, rapid urbanisation, and dietary changes as household incomes rise, Graziano said.
“The increasing demand for high-value products in urban areas also offer multiple employment opportunities in processing, distribution, marketing and retailing of food products,” he explained.
Laure Epopa, 28, a university graduate from Cameroon, makes flour from plantains.
“I engaged in agribusiness because agriculture is a major source of revenue in Cameroon,” she told The New Times as she exhibited her products at the conference.
However, she said that although the youth have ideas to create profitable enterprises, they are still challenged by limited access to capital.
“We want that organisations (that support the agriculture sector) to finance our businesses so that we grow and expand,” she said.
Sacko said that countries can mobilise resources through development partners, and create enabling environment for business to attract investment so as to get funding for youth’s agribusiness projects.