Agriculture in Africa has a massive social and economic footprint to improve livelihoods and grow the economy. More than 60 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are smallholder farmers, with over 50 percent of the continent’s population falling below age 30. Also, about 23 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP comes from agriculture. Yet, Africa’s full agricultural potential remains hugely untapped. Research reports from McKinsey & Company in 2017 revealed that Africa could be three times more productive if intensified actions are implemented to achieve higher agricultural productivity through sustainable engagement of youth and women as vital stakeholders across the value chains in the sector.
The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) played host to a selected group of 60 young professionals and entrepreneurs of the agro-industry at continental engagement workshop on capacity building of youth in agripreneurship for technology adoption. These youth represented over 20 countries. This event was in line with the framework for Capacity Development and Technology Outreach (CDTO) component of the African Development Bank (AfDB)-funded Technologies for Africa Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program which aims to upscale the promotion and delivery of food production technologies across agro-ecological zones under specific value chains in ten pilot countries.
Among the participants were winners of the FARA-YPARD Africa Essay contest; Country Representatives of YPARD Africa, the Enable TAAT youth compact and a host of other youth groups actively involved in the sector. The Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD)- Africa in collaboration with FARA launched an essay competition in December 2018 and called for youth to articulate their experiences in agricultural engagement initiatives across the region- especially in the context of agri-preneurship.
Setting the pace for the new Africa
This workshop created the avenue to develop a framework for engagement of youth in Africa, with a focus on inclusive agri-preneurship development and technology adoption. This was based on shared experiences of the participants. Their views were then harmonized into an action plan that will inform FARA’s strategic plan covering the next ten years. The information gathered will guide FARA and its constituents better on how to effectively engage with and feature youth and women in agriculture in the context of implementing FARA’s new strategy. With this, a set of guidelines on strategic engagement and capacity development of youth will be developed. These guidelines will focus on agri-preneurship and scaling of technologies for increased productivity and profitability to help actualize the “Vision 2063: The Africa we want.”
Major highlights of the workshop were the training of these young professionals on how to capitalize their experiences in agricultural engagements or projects so as to inspire and guide others who would be eager to learn from their work. This could facilitate the replication of similar results in their enterprises through peer learning. Participants of the workshop were exposed educated on the approach of “Experience capitalization” as a process through which an agriculturally related experience could be identified, validated and documented. This process leads to learning and identification of good practices which can then be adapted, improved, adopted by others and upscaled. This could eventually lead to a greater impact in efficiency, productivity and capacity in the agriculture and food sectors. Thus, the participants leveraged on the Capitalization process to reframe their experiences in their essays within the context of specific agrarian projects or programmes that they had been involved in. They described, analyzed and identified lessons to share with the sole purpose of upscaling technology adoption and improving best practices in farming and agribusiness sectors.
One key presentation at the workshop was on the development and utilization of agribusiness opportunities along the value chains by
- leveraging our comparative advantage of our environments,
- deploying our skill sets,
- developing a positive mindset and
- fostering partnerships to build small and medium enterprises with the potential for expansion in the medium and long term.
Identifying successful projects and initiatives to strengthen entrepreneurs’ networks, so that they can gain business lessons or mentorship assistance are necessary building steps, but a strategic focus on strengthening the overall value chain specific to youth enterprises is very important in Africa.
Emmie Wachira, the Global Communications Manager and Kofi Kisiedu Acquaye, the YPARD Africa Coordinator highlighted the benefits and achievements of the YPARD network. With their mission to empower young agricultural leaders, the network aims at positioning youth as champions to build sustainable food systems through collaboration with relevant stakeholders.
For Africa to achieve self-sufficiency in food production within the shortest possible time, collective investments from national governments, the private and development sectors will be required. This will eventually break the food import chain and increase our capacity to meet our food needs through production. Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), while speaking at the Center for Global Development 2017 event held in Washington DC lamented on the negative effects that huge food imports had on the continent. He said, “Africa’s annual food import bill of $35 billion, estimated to rise to $110 billion by 2025, weakens African economies, decimates its agriculture and exports jobs from the continent. Africa’s annual food import bill of $35 billion is just about the same amount it needs to close its power deficit.”
Most of the participants agreed with the fact that agriculture is one of the critical pathways to move Africa out of poverty, create employment opportunities for young people and thus curbing illegal migration. Accelerating the involvement of African youth in agriculture and agri-business will also help meet development goals, like those put forth by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- including ending extreme poverty; addressing zero hunger; and ensuring gender equality. Talking about the important role that the youth can play in achieving the #SDG 2030 agenda, these young people would require some effort. Among these interventions to help youth actualize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to achieve the Agenda 2063 vision tagged “the Africa we want” are: funding, practical knowledge, access to lands and market penetration, expert training, technology, innovation and agro-allied.
Clearly, opportunities abound for directing youth in Africa toward agribusiness if done in an integrated manner, to offer enormous societal and economic advantages. Many mechanisms toward this goal should align several research, development and investment interests to drive true prosperity. One of the participants, Paul Atsu wrapped up his closing remarks in these words, “The next critical step is to develop a holistic program that unites widespread commitment and partnership. Combining these approaches in an effective way will deliver cost-effective opportunities to youth for profitable agribusiness development across Africa”.
Photo credit: Nawsheen Hosenally and Eric Nyikwagh.