FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Youth empowerment

The NENA region is considered to be one of the most youthful regions in the world with a median age of 22 compared to 28 globally and with about 60 percent of the population under the age of 25. 

There is a growing divide between the conditions of living in the region’s urban and rural areas, with the majority of poor people living in rural areas. Youth in these areas struggle with poor basic services (health, education, communications, etc.), low exposure to and opportunities for innovation, limited access to productive resources, services and value chains, low access to social protection and limited decent employment opportunities. Many young people in the region, especially young men are choosing to migrate out of rural areas in pursuit of better opportunities. Young women on the other hand, are less likely to migrate due to constraints on their mobility and are more likely to be unemployed or employed in low quality jobs. 

FAO in the NENA region works to uplift youth and tighten the rural-urban divide, focusing on youth employment, women empowerment, and the development of inclusive value chains by availing equal opportunities and insuring inclusive economic growth.

FAO’s work on youth aims to
  • change the discourse around agricultural work and empower young innovators and entrepreneurs in the sector
  • provide youth with skills and training needed to purse decent employment in agrifood
  • support youth inclusion in rural institutions (including producer associations, water user associations, civil society organizations, local committees and councils) which can improve their access to resources and services as well as decision making processes.
  • eliminate child labour in agriculture and its role in perpetrating intergenerational cycles of poverty.
Regional activities
  • FAO and Enactus Special Agri-food Competition in North Africa: FAO collaborated with Enactus to hold a competition that aims to support youth in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia that have innovative solutions in the agri-food systems sector and be part of the agri-food innovation days in Dubai. This was followed by ideation bootcamps in the three participating countries to have a continuous pipeline of innovation in the sector presented by youth.
  • The Agri-nation Startup Cup: This is a regional program to support early stage agri-food entrepreneurs in the region through an incubation program and enablers network in all NENA countries to further support youth entrepreneurs.
  • Youth in Arab Agri-food Systems (YAAFS): FAO created a community to connect youth and youth groups interested in agriculture and food systems in the NENA region to build meaningful collaboration and avail access to opportunities in the region.
Facts and Figures
  • 40% of the region’s population live in rural areas.
  • 60% of the region’s population is under the age of 25.
  • Rural wages average 1/3 of urban wages.
  • 13% of the rural population and 25% of rural youth are unemployed, with higher unemployment among women than men.
  • 26% of the region’s youth, and 40% of the region’s women, are unemployed. These rates are higher than any other region in the world.
FAO Impact
  • 250+ active members on the YAAFS network
  • 100+ opportunities shared among the YAAFS network.
  • 4 regional youth events organized.
  • 45 applications received in FAO Agri-food special competition
  • 18 projects received technical and financial support.
  • 6 projects were invited and featured in Agri-food Innovation Days in Dubai Expo.
  • 20 startups to join the Agribusiness Bootcamp
  • 10 winning startups will receive tailored incubation.
Working Towards


  • SDG 2: Zero hunger
  • SDG 5: Gender equality
  • SDG 8: Decenet work and economic growth
  • SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

Youth is a cross-cutting theme in the Strategic Framework


JeanMarc Faures

Regional Programme Leader 

Dalia Abulfotuh

Economist and Youth focal Point for the NENA Regional Office