Nature endows Africa with a wide diversity of agro-ecological zones conducive for agriculture. Yet, Africa still has much to achieve in its agricultural sector as the aged are those involved in this sector.
The world, in general, has an army of unemployed youths among which, Africa has the youngest. This is indeed a gift to the agricultural sector which is underexploited. It is also an opportunity for African youths to get themselves employed.
Africa has more than 60% of its 1.166 billion people living in rural areas and about 420 million youths are aged 15-35. One-third of these youths are unemployed in a continent that the economy practically depends on agriculture. Youths can be precursors in this rich and unexploited sector if truly they intend to fight unemployment and eradicate poverty.
While these youths look for white collar jobs, many are not qualified and lack the skills to look for employment. Stories about African youths leaving the rural areas to urban centers in search of better jobs abound. Others follow the migration route for greener pastures. This has often led to devastating consequences.
Some find little or no opportunity in the urban environment which tends to frustrate them since they have not exploited the opportunities agriculture can offer.
Moreover, youths can take advantage of the great challenge of youth unemployment to be forerunners in new agriculture and agri-business enterprises. This will go a long way to transform rural areas.
Challenges plaguing Africa’s agricultural sector
Agriculture is the greatest provider of employment in the developing world. It provides the greatest number of new economic opportunities beyond production alone. Nonetheless, youths interested in this sector, face varying challenges.
The unavailability of land makes it really difficult for young people to engage in farming and modern farming in particular. Also, youths lack access to credit facilities to help them invest in new technologies, practical skills, fair and organized markets to succeed in the agribusiness.
However, the most challenging is the youths’ mindsets towards farming and agriculture. Youths consider agriculture as an unglamorous sector to engage in. They have concentrated their energy on obtaining white collar jobs, which many consider being ideal. Interestingly, those who work in offices are increasingly taking interest in agriculture.
Encouraging youths to engage in Agriculture
Agriculture in Africa experiences basic infrastructural problems such as access to markets and financing. A great majority of Africa’s population living in extreme poverty are in the rural areas. To prevent an ugly future for the continent, it is paramount for governments to encourage youths to engage in agriculture.
However, it is still necessary to encourage youths to embrace agriculture, an unexploited sector in Africa.
In a session with young entrepreneurs in Jos, Sim Shagaya, founder and former boss of Konga, encouraged youths to take on agriculture for their livelihood and employment. According to him, engaging in agriculture can help tackle poverty and make youths to become more productive.
Spent the morning in the strawberry growing Chaha area outside of Jos. There are people here who gave up office jobs and swear not to return after experiencing the financial and lifestyle gains of agriculture. pic.twitter.com/CmD9ZPdWFQ
— Sim Shagaya (@SimShagaya) July 7, 2018
Also, in a bid to get youths to engage in agriculture, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) is catalyzing a Collecting Action for Engaging Youth in Agriculture for Food Security and Poverty Reduction. This action intends to set up innovation platforms that will enable the integration of youths into profitable new agri-businesses. The GFAR intends to achieve this by bringing together relevant actors;
- To foster youth-friendly production
- Processing and marketing systems
- Work along value in professionalized and commercialized agriculture
- Introduce training and capacity-building with the support of ICT, social media and other means of communication.
In order to reduce the rate of unemployment in Africa, African youths must, therefore, embrace agriculture and contribute to the fight against hunger and poverty.