Africa has the youngest population in the world. This young workforce could stimulate and transform innovation in agriculture, but 72% of young Africans live on less than US $ 2 a day.
“The agricultural sector is expected to create 8 million stable jobs by 2020 and up to 14 million if its development is accelerated,” explains Ann Miles, director of programs, financial inclusion and youth livelihoods at the MasterCard Foundation, which hosted the second Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, February 16-17, 2017. “Agriculture must be a priority in development plans for the continent if we are to ensure a prosperous future to young Africans. ”
In order to develop, the agricultural sector must make greater use of modern tools, technologies and practices to promote youth entrepreneurship. During the Summit, young people were able to discuss their successes in terms of employment, food security, development and also the fight against climate change.
One of the biggest challenges for young people is accessing finance; young entrepreneurs need new resources to grow their projects. According to Brian Bosire, founder of UjuziKilimo, which provides accurate agricultural information to small farmers, “young people cannot provide the necessary collateral, I hope to see banks come up with better models for financing youth activities.”
Although agriculture employs 65% of Africa’s population and accounts for 32% of GDP, less than 1% of banks lend to this sector. Without access to credit, young people are unable to buy quality inputs or invest to increase production and yields. There is, however, one company, FarmDrive, which helps young people access credit by using information about farmers – along with satellite and weather data and market figures – to assess creditworthiness and recommend loans to financial institutions. Co-founder Rita Kimani says: “Our model is to help financial institutions assess the risks, as well as the ability and willingness of farmers to repay their loans, while ensuring that the products offered by banks are suitable for them.” More than 3,000 Kenyan farmers are currently working with FarmDrive, which supported € 125,000 in loans in 2016.
Transformation through technology
Digitally competent young people are encouraged to integrate technology into agriculture and modernize it. In Kenya, 90% of young people use their cell phones in their farming practices. Young people who work at Kenya’s highly innovative iHub, a space for creating and sharing ideas in the tech community, have become engines of technological development through ICT. The two main innovations of iHub are M-Farm – which shows farmers market prices (through apps or SMS) and connects them with buyers – and iCow, which offers farmers relevant information. , including livestock prices and veterinary care.
UjuziKilimo also uses interactive SMS messaging to link farmers together, and sensors to capture soil and agricultural data to send them real-time advice on needed fertilizers, pest control, markets, and more. This company only employs young people: “No one is over 30 years old, my belief is that young people bring diverse skills and a lot of new ideas”, emphasizes Brian Bosire.
To support youth ICT innovations and entrepreneurship, CTA launched the AgriHack Talent Program in 2013, which involved more than 600 young innovators and entrepreneurs and supported the creation of products and start-ups in the field. ICT field, such as FarmDrive. Pitch AgriHack! Is a new element of the program – intensive training followed by a competitive examination, which obtains grants and investments to expand the services offered. In 2016, 152 start-ups participated in the Pitch AgriHack! Pilot project, including UjuziKilimo.
Overcome the obstacles
According to a recent analysis of gender barriers affecting youth livelihoods, conducted by the UK think tank Overseas Development Institute (ODI), one of the main challenges limiting the success of young women agripreneurs is unequal access to essential resources, land, finance and information services. Alesia Ofori Dedaa, a graduate of the MasterCard Foundation, believes that national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will overcome these obstacles. In particular, it “noted that the number of young people actively involved in development companies was increasing and that the majority (over 70%) were women”.
“The transformation of African agriculture underpins the empowerment of women and youth,” emphasizes Pilirani Khoza, founder of the Bunda Female Students Organization (BUFESO), which helps underprivileged students at the University of Agriculture and Resources natural resources in Lilongwe, Malawi. Concerned about the lack of women in higher education, she created BUFESO to empower young women to pursue scientific and agricultural studies by partially financing their tuition and other charges. She has also created a Graduate Student-Farmer Climate Change Program that pairs female farmers with graduates for a month and trains them in the use of climate-smart technologies.
“Young people are increasingly aware of the difficulties and opportunities associated with the necessary transition to low-carbon growth and many are joining national and global dialogues seeking solutions, getting involved and taking action”, explains Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, director of climate-smart agriculture programs at the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).
According to S. N. Mwamakamba, the creativity of young people is invaluable in the search for innovative solutions to climate change. In Ghana, for example, young people have made award-winning bamboo bicycle frames: carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 70% and the initiative is helping to rehabilitate local forests. The Bamboo Bike Academy, hosted by the Bamboo Bike Initiative, also offers courses in bicycle making and mechanics to empower young people and women to start their own small businesses.
“The enthusiasm and energy of the youth is at the heart of developing climate change mitigation measures,” says Janet Maro, founder of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). “There is a need to pass on environmentally friendly farming methods that reduce carbon emissions to the next generation to become agents of change in their environment and improve their livelihoods.” SAT is an agricultural training network that has empowered almost 1,000 young people since 2011 and is currently working with 33 youth groups across the country. Groups receive training in ecological agriculture and / or poultry farming, as well as food processing and valuation, business skills and entrepreneurship development. “These extra-agricultural activities are very lucrative for young people,” confirms Janet Maro.
Engage the private sector
The private sector plays a key role in attracting young people to work in agriculture. According to Dr Eleni Gabre-Madhin, managing director and founder of Ethiopia’s first incubator and platform for young agripreneurs, blueMoon, 90% of jobs are created by the private sector in Africa. As part of its four-month business incubator program, blueMoon connects innovative new agribusinesses with top executives and entrepreneurs from the Ethiopian private sector. “We need to encourage young people to think big and create scalable businesses that can absorb the millions of young people entering the workforce every year,” she says.
In Uganda, KadAfrica, a passion fruit processing company, uses fruit cultivation to help girls aged 14 to 20 who have dropped out of school become economic drivers in their communities. The company buys 100% of the fruit it produces at market price and resells it to the private sector; it deals with 20 regular local buyers and two export companies based in Kampala. More than 1,600 young girls have so far participated in the six-month program which covers practical training, access to land, quality seeds, agricultural inputs, technical support, spirit of business, etc. Growing this fruit earns them an average of € 66 per month. “At the end of the program, they can go back to school, start their own business, or cultivate the passion fruit. The training helps them manage and invest, ”says Eric Kaduru, founder and CEO of KadAfrica.
Over the past decade, African policymakers have adopted a wide range of policies to help young people. In 2006, African Union (AU) member states implemented the first African project of effective national youth policies. The African Youth Charter, which recognizes that young people are partners and represent an essential condition for sustainable development, has been signed by 42 member states and ratified by 38 of them. This launched a “decade for youth and development”, enabled the approval in 2008 of a 10-year roadmap for the implementation of the Charter, and fostered constant policy dialogue; in 2011, the AU Summit theme accelerated youth empowerment. “The adoption and implementation of the African Youth Charter represents an important step as African countries commit to implement comprehensive and cross-sectoral policies for young people, with their active participation,” explains S. N. Mwamakamba.
With regional bodies also increasingly interested in youth policies, most African countries are striving to involve young people in political and decision-making processes. The main objective of the national youth policy in Ghana is to promote the engagement of young people in modern agriculture. One of the keys to this policy is the Youth in Agriculture (YIAP) program, which enables them to acquire tractors, seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals, harvesters and business services with interest-free loans. The young participants also receive training and basic equipment to get started in processing, development and sales. Since its launch in 2009, YIAP has created agricultural jobs for more than 150,000 young people.
Francis Arinaitwe, youth president of a parish in Mayuge district, Uganda, and volunteer for Restless Development, however, says the gap between youth and decision-makers still needs to be bridged to enable young people to fully participate in the development of policies. policies. “It is high time that policymakers stop seeing us as beneficiaries,” he told the 2017 Young Africa Works Summit. “Think of us as participants in policy thinking, design and development. their implementation. ” S. N. Mwamakamba agrees that “the incentive strategies of the current agricultural policy must be adjusted to promote the development and engagement of youth in agriculture, not to discourage them. African countries need strategic instruments aimed at changing the perception of youth engagement in agriculture, especially through higher education ”.
In order to thrive, the agricultural sector needs to use modern tools, technologies and practices to promote entrepreneurship among young people. And while the Youn Africa Works Summit has helped demonstrate that interesting and innovative initiatives are popping up here and there, much remains to be done for young people to realize their potential in productive and sustainable agrifood systems.
Each year, 11 million young Africans enter the workforce, but many cannot find a job. The continent is facing a double job crisis: the lack of jobs for young people and the increase in the number of young people seeking work. Agriculture, Africa’s largest employment sector, however, offers opportunities for employment and economic prosperity.