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ENABLE Youth Program Empowers Young African Graduates into Agribusiness

Majid with IITA Agriprenuers

My story of how I got to attend the #enableyouth Program is quite interesting as my initial plan was to come to Abuja briefly, do an agribusiness branding presentation and head back to Birnin Kebbi( Very few people know Kebbi is a state in Nigeria).

Soon after settling in Abuja I updated my Facebook status on my proposed presentation. One of my friends who work at IITA, Abuja asked me if I was attending the enable youth program, and this changed my mind. I started looking for the event invite and luckily,my YPARD Country representative asked if i could represent him as  he wasn’t going to be able to be there in person. And just like that, i made it to the The ENABLE Youth Program.

The ENABLE Youth Program

ENABLE Youth program logo

The ENABLE Youth Program is a followup of the Dakar High Level Conference held  back in 21st - 23rd October, 2015 and organized by the African Development Bank. One of the key high points from the Dakar conference was the Bank’s decision to set up a Youth Employment Financing Facility. This necessitated the birth of ENABLE Youth Program which is one of the instruments promoted by the AfDB in collaboration with IITA and other partners, to support youth entrepreneurship and employment opportunities in agriculture.

Africa’s dynamics has a large percentage of its population as young people (65 percent of its population are young people) who potentially constitute a vibrant workforce when put to use in agriculture. African agriculture with the rate of food imports needs young people for it to thrive and transform its economy.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) held the ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) Youth Program Design Workshop titled: Enable Youth Design Workshop - Think Big for African 'Agripreneurs’, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Nigeria on 21st – 22nd April 2016.

Objectives of the ENABLE Youth Program

On getting to the venue, I scanned through the audience and looked through the ratio of young people to the very much older aged ones. I was particularly excited at the presence of a good number of young individuals including the IITA youth Agripreneurs (which I had earlier met them in 2013) and also meeting some other young people.

The objective of the ENABLE Youth Program Design Workshop was to build well-grounded evidence-based understanding of the ENABLE Youth Program Concept among key stakeholders. Participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and lessons they learnt in promoting youth employment in agriculture in Africa. The design workshop gives an opportunity for the Bank and its partners to fine-tune the ENABLE Youth program design through knowledge of proven best practices Africa-wide.

The initiative which in its pilot phase has provided evidence that, with greater access to the agribusiness enterprise, and institutional support, youths with their passion and energy, can become the driving force of agricultural transformation in Africa.

The AfDB President in his video statement said; “Agriculture is the future of Africa, today Africa has 75 percent of the arable land to feed 5 billion, therefore Africa must become a global power house for agriculture”. Akinwumi Adesina reiterated that Africa has to see Agriculture as a business if she must end hunger and significantly reduce food imports.

Across the world young women and men face real and increasing difficulty in finding decent work opportunities, there is currently a youth employment crisis with young people fighting for white collar jobs. The ENABLE youth workshop was a medium where young people meet to discuss these challenges as it relates to engaging in agribusiness startups; creation of an enabling environment for the ENABLE program, implementation arrangements, and exit strategy were also discussed during breakout sessions.

The Workshop Highlights

The workshop was a top meeting for me to network with young professionals, including YPARD members from other countries, agro-entrepreneurs among others. Some of the interesting meetings i had include;

  • An innovative online market place enterprise known as Farm Afrique which offers a reliable meeting platform for agro-allied businesses and entrepreneurs using internet technology and with its base of operation in Nigeria. Over the next two years Farm Agrique hopes to expand its base of operations to Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, Sierra lone, Ghana, Cote d’iviore, South Africa and other African countries.
  • Ms. Mosunmola Umoru, the owner of Farmshoppe, a retail outlet of Honeysuckles PTL a leading agricultural production company in Nigeria whose aim is to reduce the gap in the Nigerian food market. She now serves as Technical Adviser (Youth & Gender) to the Honorable Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria.
  • Mr. Temitope Aroge a medical doctor who trained and practiced medicine for 15 years before deciding to become a farmer. He owns 1,000 hectares of land for farming cassava and employs over 25 people, he believes the Nigerian youth is the answer to feeding the nation and reducing food imports, he is a proud Nagropreneur.
  • “The legendary Ken Lohento” of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA). CTA’s social media for Agriculture training has help me develop my career and apply my ICT skills for Agriculture, I briefly spoke to him about CTA’s immense benefit to my career and he acknowledged the importance of ICT and social media in expanding Agricultural networking.
  • The Coordinator of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) Courtney Paisley an organization that gave me a voice, and is consulted by young people willing to involve themselves in Agricultural development. I was excited to meet her as she has always campaigned on young professionals need to be engaged in shaping the future of agriculture, by nurturing young role models so future agriculturalists can look up to them thereby changing their perceptions.

The Funding Opportunity

AfDB has committed about $300 million dollars for this programme and government and the private sectors are also throwing their commitment. The youths who would be enrolled in this programme will undergo 12 – 18 months incubation to acquire in-depth agricultural vocational and business skills. Thereafter, they will benefit from starter packs sufficient enough to start up their agricultural businesses so as to employ jobless youths. In the next few months the #ENABLEYOUTH Programme will kick off in Nigeria and it is for graduate youths.

More information about the presentations from the ENABLE Youth Workshop can be found on the AfDB website here.