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In Africa, agricultural businesses can stem the tide of migration

Huge opportunities exist for youth across the entire agricultural value chain

22 August 2018, Kigali - Creating decent employment opportunities for youth in Africa's agriculture sector can significantly reduce youth migration from the continent, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva,  said  in his closing remarks at this week's international youth conference held in Rwanda.

"We firmly believe that if you [the youth] are provided these opportunities, you will not leave the continent to look for opportunities elsewhere. We have the means to provide those opportunities right here where you can see and participate in the future of your countries and the continent", Graziano da Silva said.

FAO requested for the establishment of a youth facility, which would assist young people in addressing some of the challenges they face when setting up and expanding agricultural businesses. The facility would be piloted in Rwanda and later rolled out to the rest of Africa.

Approximately 65 to 75 percent of the people migrating from Africa are youth, many in search of employment opportunities. Tens of millions of jobs will have to be created each year in the Africa as the continent's population continues to grow steadily. The agricultural sector including the related food systems and value chains can offer substantial entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth.

Enabling environment to attract more youth

Among several challenges, conference participants highlighted factors of production such as land as one of the most significant barriers for young people wanting to start or expand agricultural enterprises. This was further compounded by limited access to credit facilities for young people across the continent.

Through an 8-point communiqué, the youth outlined their recommended actions for immediate focus; youth-led policy action, institutionalizing the youth conference (biennial), capacity development, reinforcing enabling and institutional environments, equipping rural areas with critical services essential for modern agriculture, agribusiness and value chain support, changing negative image of agriculture and supporting national youth platforms to share knowledge and best practices.

The FAO Director-General stressed the need to continue working closely with a wide range of actors to support the youth.

"We have started with the first step and I hope that we will be together throughout the journey. When you are in a hurry, you go alone, but if you want to go further, you need to go together. We want to go further and we want to go with you," Graziano da Silva said.

Take pride in being farmers

Urging the youth to reverse the often-negative perceptions associated with agriculture and take pride in being farmers requires the need to change the image and conversation around agriculture and shift the focus to the opportunities and profits to be made across the agri-food chain.

Sustainable solutions for decent youth employment in agriculture in Africa must, however, address the intertwined issues of minimizing drudgery while maximizing returns to effort. The agribusiness and logistics sector in Africa is set to mobilize about a trillion-dollar business by 2030 and young agricultural entrepreneurs should be poised to benefit from a portion of the resulting profits.

The Youth Employment in Agriculture Conference jointly organized by the African Union and the Government of Rwanda and FAO, brought together Delegates from 58 countries, over 30 International and Regional Organizations, the private sector (including financial institutions), development partners, government representatives and the youth. The Conference served as a pivotal platform to exchange knowledge and best practices regarding the interfaces between agriculture, youth employment, entrepreneurship, ICT innovations. All of these aimed to galvanize actions aimed at ending poverty and promoting entrepreneurship in Africa. 

Photo: ©FAO/Luis Tato
Graziano da Silva and a youth conference participant in Kigali, Rwanda.

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