Decent Rural Employment

Are young agripreneurs ready to go digital?


In February 2021, the ICA programme launched a digital readiness assessment of youth in agribusiness in partnership with the East Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) and youth-led organizations in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. We engaged over 360 male and female youth through an online survey and virtual focus groups that generated insights on their interaction with digital technologies, either as entrepreneurs, service providers or members of youth in agribusiness organizations.

We were able to capture insights on the following topics: agribusiness information flows, digital access and preferences, ICT use for business including e-commerce, e-learning and online mentoring, youth networks activities online.

  • AGRIBUSINESS INFORMATION. Young agripreneurs find information mostly online, through search engines, free online courses, and social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Social media are also the prevalent channels used to share knowledge with other youth, along with community-based agribusiness platforms. In-demand topics include: access to finance, business management, marketing, production and value addition, best practices, ICTs. According to the youth, the harder to find online is information about funding opportunities and credit facilities, as well as market information that is relevant enough to the local context.
  • DIGITAL READINESS. Even among young agripreneurs with frequent internet access, use of technology for agribusiness proves to be a challenge for many, due to affordability of internet data and the lack of advanced digital skills. In this sense, digital expertise the youth would like to gain includes: digital communication, branding and marketing; web development and management; finance management tools; data collection and analysis tools. Most used digital applications are WhatsApp, Facebook, email and YouTube, with minimal social media usage in Uganda due to the national tax introduced in 2018 on the use of social media and other mobile communication apps. Web conferencing apps like Zoom and e-learning platforms gained traction due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For youth in remote rural areas, additional barriers exist in terms of poor connectivity, limited smartphone ownership and digital illiteracy. Physical meetings, calls and SMS remain a viable option to reach them.
  • ACCESS TO BUSINESS SUPPORT SERVICES ONLINE. Young agripreneurs see the benefits of adopting digital technology to grow their business, network, and client base, but are still cautious about the time and money they invest in it and the risk offraud. E-commerce platforms are not so popular and are used mostly for price comparison and forecasting rather than actual selling. E-learning on the contrary is a service experienced and appreciated by most of the youth, particularly in a post COVID-19 scenario. Participants clearly expressed that e-learning content for young agripreneurs needs to be accompanied by mentorship and showed appreciation for online mentorship provided that mentors can meet their schedule and real time needs.
  • DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT BY YOUTH NETWORKS. Thisseems to be still limited to information sharing through WhatsApp or social media and a few attempts of blended learning. There is a need to upgrade the digital skills of youth leaders to better engage and serve their members. Similarly, it is vital to empower young women to increase their involvement and representation in agribusiness, both online and offline.

This assessment was a preliminary step for the design of the African Youth Agripreneurs (AYA) digital platform, a joint initiative of FAO and EAFF inspired by the demand for learning, mentorship and knowledge sharing opportunities expressed by East African young agripreneurs at the 2019 Regional Youth Forum held in Kampala, Uganda. The AYA platform will be an online community for individual agripreneurs and rural youth organizations to share youth-friendly digital content and access agribusiness support services.

Similar assessments of digital access and skills of rural youth are being conducted in other ICA countries such as Guatemala. Capturing actionable insights at a very early stage is key in a user-centred design process and will allow FAO and partners to develop digital engagement strategies that truly reflect the needs and preferences of the young agripreneurs.

For more information contact: [email protected]