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Promoting youth agripreneurship in Africa

The recent discussion on issues pertaining to food security and adequate nutrition proves to be very important as it has a bearing on human survival. It has become increasingly important as food security and nutrition security are essential aspects of the development goals aimed at sustainable, social, economic and human development.

But did you know?

… eight hundred million people still suffer from hunger?

…and that more than two billion of the world’s people have micronutrient deficiencies or even forms of over-nourishment?

...that one out of every three people living in Africa suffers from a condition known as hidden hunger?

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, State of food and nutrition 2017) gives all these information.

Are you shocked? I guess you would be even more worried to find out that 159 million children under five are shorter than they should be at their age as they do not have adequate nutrition.

This post explores the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in reaching SDG number 2 (SDG 2): “ending hunger, through achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture among youths”.

Africa is a youthful continent, but the region has by far the highest rate of youngest working population, estimated at 50 percent in 2013. Working is a necessity for most young people as they contribute to economic growth and social stability. This growing youth population (60 percent of Africans are between 16-24 years of age) doesn’t see agriculture as a profitable opportunity, but rather, regard it as subsistence farming, or a dead end. Consolidating the position of agriculture as an essential driver of economic development and an area of great opportunity for young people in Africa means empowering youth and women in the sub-sectors of food and nutrition security.

Recognising the crucial role women and youth play in both the production and post-production stages of the agricultural values chain, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), International Potato Centre (CIP), Building Nutritious Food Basket (BNFB) Project and other partners organized a pre-meeting workshop and a side event titled ‘’Integrating women and youth in the agricultural value chain for increased productivity, jobs, income and food and nutrition security: The role of advocacy’’. The workshop and side events were held as part of activities for the 14th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development (CAADP) Partnership Platform meeting held in Libreville, Gabon recently. The 14th Programme CAADP Partnership Platform provides space and platform for all CAADP partners, National Governments, African Agriculture (Malabo Declaration and CAADP Results Framework) and the Africa Union Agenda 2063, as well as the work on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals for results-oriented dialogue on strengthening accountability mechanisms within the context of agricultural transformation and development and “accelerating the Implementation of National Agricultural Investment Plans to Achieve the Malabo goals and targets”.

Harnessing outcomes for productivity

The pre-meeting workshop provided a forum to discuss key competencies for effective bio-fortification high level advocacy by women and youth for policy change and garner better insights for both the written and non-written processes, procedures and effective tools for advocacy at grassroots, national and regional levels; share experiences on the advocacy activities of the BNFB Advocacy Champions on biofortification and they the need for scaling-up ; exchange ideas leading to the development of a new project on biofortification and solicit increased investment (resource mobilization) to support women and youth participation in nutrition-sensitive agricultural value chains especially those involving biofortified crops. Several presentations were made by young and women agripreneurs, lead researchers and respected academics.

Highlights were the inspiring success stories that youths from Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania shared about their businesses in the bio-fortified food industry and positioning the challenges and opportunities available for growth through increased awareness of the various opportunities available in the nutrition-sensitive agricultural sector. This provided a great avenue for the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) to advocate for the creation of crowdfunding platforms, business incubator hubs and research mentorship programmes to groom and empower the next generation of agribusiness and research professionals with the needed skills, knowledge, productive mindset and resources to excel. These testimonials affirmed the true spirit of the African youth for productivity and positive change.

The side event provided a platform for discussions on mechanisms for women and youth inclusion in agricultural value chain as well as appropriate incentives that will attract, empower and retain them particularly in nutrition-sensitive agricultural value chains and resource mobilisation to support their participation in agribusiness for jobs, income, and nutrition in Africa by igniting the necessary experiential and academic debates around the participation of women and youth in nutrition-sensitive value chains leading to the generation of appropriate policy actions for a more practical and responsive approach. This forum provided an exciting networking and learning opportunity to interface with seasoned professionals and my peers from different backgrounds all with one agenda in mind. It was a wonderful experience exploring foreign culture, cuisine, language and natural landscape. These are unforgettable memories I will live to reminiscence with joy.

Specifically, the side event achieved the following milestones:

  • Exchange of information on relevant nutritional sensitive agricultural technologies, programs and policies to increase youth and women participation in agribusiness;
  • Identified opportunities for business and research partnerships for and among women and the youth; Facilitated business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) engagement and
  • Facilitated opportunities for commercialization of agricultural technologies (business-to-research (B2R) partnerships

The way forward: Key action steps

For agriculture to become a potential and viable economic alternative for the youth in Africa, think tanks (big industry players) in Africa need to take leadership in: Supporting ‘implementation research” initiatives that aim to develop employment strategies that are empirically based and context specific interventions based on locality, agro-economic zones, gender and employment needs; Encouraging governments to revisit their land, loan and budgeting policies to promote agripreneurship among youths and women in collaboration with various actors in government, research organisations and private sector; Empowering youth and women groups like YPARD with skills and resources to become advocates and active players of biofortification, agricultural development and entrepreneurship; Working with other actors in the public and private sector, researching and advocating for reforms in technical and vocational based education to address the current needs of the sector which involves reviewing the curriculum, improving facilities and training instructors to respond to the emerging agricultural opportunities.

Eric Nyikwagh, YPARD Nigeria

I see African youth already tapping into technological change and innovative market solutions, transforming the agricultural sector across the value chains. They have a deep understanding that agricultural entrepreneurship is a commitment that will enable them to provide job opportunities, share knowledge, generate wealth, ensure food and nutrition security and serve as models for others in their community, their country and their continent. They see the value and opportunity that exists in the face of challenges across Africa to inspire their generation for positive impact.