This member participated in the following discussions
After my first input, I would like to respond now to question 5 : Is there a role for modern technologies, including Information and Communication Technologies, in sustaining capacity development initiatives?
Indeed, as specified by many contributions, ICT can play a very important role in sustaining capacity development initiatives. At the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), I have been coordinating activities leveraging on ICT to engage different profiles of youth in agriculture, before, during after capacity development activities.
We have developed a four-pronged framework, to engage youth in agriculture using ICTs, as part of our youth ARDYIS (Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society) project. The first approach relates to the use of social media to advocate for and promote agriculture opportunities, and the second one focuses on enhancing ICT use in youth-led farming and agribusinesses, in order to improve market access and business processes. The third approach relates to the development of ICT services targeting the agricultural sector by young entrepreneurs, and the fourth one encourages upgrading ICT use in all other agricultural professional areas in which youth can be involved, particularly in extension, agricultural knowledge management, etc. CTA has been implementing a variety of activities within that framework. See the picture attached and this report http://bit.ly/youth-ict-agri-report for more information.
At each of these levels, after capacity development activities are implemented, ICT can help facilitate :
- a) the launch and management of community of practice on the training subjects (networking of, and with, trainees for continuous learning and improvement, and for the deployment of future initiatives);
- b) the sharing of best practices, lessons learned and post training opportunities;
- c) awareness creation and mobilisation of other youths who were not beneficiaries;
- d) access to wider ICT-based opportunities (e-platforms, e-marketplaces where agripreneurs for example can find additional customers and trade) leveraging on new capacity acquired;
- e) development of new tools by trainees;
- f) training evaluation and delivery of more advanced training.
Ken Lohento, CTA
Great contributions so far. Thanks to everyone for the knowledge shared. I am Ken Lohento, Programme Coordinator at the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), based in the Netherlands; we cover Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries. I focus on youth in agriculture and ICT activities and I am Focal Point for Youth in agriculture activities for CTA. You can have information about our youth activities on links such as : CTA Youth Strategy; stories on some young agripreneurs; our youth Facebook Page and our Pitch AgriHack program page. CTA has been supporting youth in agriculture through various programs and activities relating for example to young farmer involvement in farmers organisations, ICT, youth in agriculture policies, supporting youth specific projects on the ground.
I would like to focus on the first question for now:
- What are the biggest challenges youth in Africa face after going through youth-specific capacity development initiatives in agriculture?
As many contributions pointed out, big challenges after capacity development initiatives are lack of access to productive equipment (including lands for production), lack of access to finance and lack of access to profitable markets. But this may be an easy answer.
In many agriculture/agribusiness development programmes that included training, or leveraged on already provided training, youths have been provided with credits or grants but in many cases, these resources have not been always used adequately. Re-payment rates are sometimes as low as 10% for loans. This may be related to the fact that sometimes, those trained and provided with financial resources are not youth with the right profile, actual agripreneurs or motivated aspirant agripreneurs. Sometimes, beneficiaries of programs concluded by provision of start-up funds may just be youth rewarded for their involvement in political militancy. Therefore, in many cases, youth may face mismanagement of the agribusiness programme that was supposed to support them and sometimes, youth themselves just don't do the right thing.
In other cases, though technical agricultural training would have been provided, business management skills are lacking in the youth. Business management skills are necessary not only to know to manage daily the business, but also how to implement successful business strategies (which can help you, for example, know how to seize market opportunities, manage relations with the supply chain, even in times of market challenges). It has also to be reminded that a person with business management capacity is not necessary a good financial manager. Accounting capacity (for records keeping and general account management) and financial management capacity (understanding how to implement sound financial strategies, including for successful additional resource mobilisation) is often lacking in small and young entreprises in Africa; therefore they don't grow easily, and stagnate or fail. In some cases, young companies may just need to have the resources to pay for an accountant and/or financial manager. And in other cases, the promoter has to understand that it should be the personal with capacity to understand and implement financial operations who should be selected to attend specific finance related training.
Talking about aspirant agripreneurs, not everyone can become a successful entrepreneur, though you are encouraged to try (if you don’t try, you can’t even have the chance to succeed). Globally, it is often said that 9 out of 10 young companies fail in the first three years. African stats may even be worse, but we don’t have enough stats on discontinuation of young companies on the continent. Failure reasons may include other issues such as the unfavourable (agri)business environment; too high tax rate for start-up/young/small companies, etc. Banks usually do not have financial credit schemes favourable to youth, because they believe that young businesses are just businesses (therefore, we need to have youth friendly business policies that government have to adopt and implement). (By the way, failure needs to be more valued, and we should put in place strategies to learn more from companies and entrepreneurs that face those difficulties. Actually the use of the word "failure" is not always relevant as young companies can pivot and become more successful)
Other post capacity development challenges include the lack of continued agribusiness mentorship/incubation schemes. Some training programs are very short, some even though they may last three months would have lasting effectiveness if they are complemented by periodical incubation/mentorship schemes. There is therefore a need to call for the strengthening of agribusiness incubators (many are young and weak, including in their governance) and agribusiness incubation schemes in Africa.
I will share more comments later on other questions.