Hundreds of delegates from across Africa have converged in Kigali for a two-day conference on knowledge and best practices regarding the interfaces between agriculture, youth employment, entrepreneurship, and ICT innovations in agriculture.
The meeting, which opened yesterday, is running under the theme, “Youth Employment in Agriculture as a Solid Solution to Ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa.”
Experts have said that Africa would benefit more from harnessing its agriculture potential than any other sector considering that the continent is blessed with fertile soils and a largely friendly weather.
But Africa is also the youngest continent, with 70 per cent of its citizens aged below 30 years – which comes with vitality, innovations and dynamism.
However, most young people on the continent tend to shun agriculture because it is largely associated with failure and there are no concrete incentives to encourage the youth to join the sector and truly use their energy, knowledge and skills to develop themselves and transform the sector.
It’s true that African countries have many competing priorities, and in most cases with limited resources – at least in terms of funds.
Nonetheless, agriculture is a sector that can easily have a transformative multiplier effect and therefore one that needs urgent and sustained attention in terms of research, extension services and funding.
And it is not enough to dedicate a minimum of 10 per cent budgetary allocation that African governments committed to under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework, because funds alone cannot achieve the desired outcome if farming is still practiced conventionally.
There is need to genuinely revisit national strategies for the sector to make it more productive, sustainable, rewarding and attractive to the youth.
In most cases this will call for a complete overhaul of the entire system and trying new things such as integrated farming, contract farming, emphasis on high value crops, harnessing the value chain, making agribusiness work, among others.
The gathering in Kigali should help come up with a clear roadmap that can guide African governments and other stakeholders on how best to transform agriculture and genuinely make the sector an indispensable fulcrum of Africa’s growth.