The African Development Bank or AfDB has stressed the need for African leaders to attract its young population to agriculture and agribusiness.
In a release issued on the commemoration of the 2017 World Food Day, the Bank said the agriculture sector can potentially create wealth and employment for African youth, thereby stemming migration.
World Food Day, celebrated yearly on October 16, to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all. This year’s theme focuses on the need to ‘Change the future of migration; Invest in food security and rural development’.
The AfDB’s ENABLE Youth program, which grooming a crop of young agripreneurs, is on course to make this happen, the Bank said.
Mahmud Johnson, 26, is the Founder of J-Palm Liberia which works to improve income for Liberia’s smallholder oil palm farmers by 50-80%. He is also creating additional jobs for over 1,000 young people to work as sales representatives for his products.
“Despite the tremendous odds, we (African youth) are determined to maximize our abundant agricultural resources to create wealth, jobs, and socioeconomic opportunities in our countries and across the continent. We need our stakeholders to view us as serious partners in Africa’s transformation, and to work with us to expand our enterprises,” Mahmud said.
Mahmud and some of his employees have benefited from capacity building programs under the AfDB’s Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth initiative.
Like Mahmud, many African youth are passionate about staying back on the continent to create wealth and employment, if given the tools and opportunities to put their skills to use. Under the ENABLE Youth program, the Bank is working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to develop a new generation of young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs.
“Our goal is to develop 10,000 such young agricultural entrepreneurs per country in the next 10 years. In 2016, the Bank provided US $700 million to support this program in eight countries and we’ve got requests now from 33 countries,” said Adesina.
The Bank considers investment in agriculture as key to making Africa youths prosperous, thereby stemming the tide of migration.
This goal, and theme of 2017 World Food Day, are well aligned with two of the AfDB’s High 5 development priorities – Feed Africa and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa – said Jennifer Blanke, Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the AfDB.
“A thriving business sector in Africa will provide the jobs and returns that will attract and retain Africa’s best talent on the continent, while improving the quality of life of all Africans,” she said.
With more than 70% of Africans depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, it is imperative for the sector’s full potential to be unlocked, and by doing so help to vastly improve the lives Africans.
Accordingly, one of the goals of Feed Africa is to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2025.
Due to the finite nature of mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, crude oil, among others, African countries must diversify their economies. This cannot be done without a significant emphasis on agriculture given that the great majority of Africans depend on it for their livelihoods.
Increased food demand and changing consumption habits driven by demographic factors such as urbanization (internal migration) are leading to rapidly rising net food imports, which will grow from US $35 billion in 2015 to over US $110 billion by 2025 if trends are left unchecked.