My name is Matthew French and I work for JBS International, Inc. This blog draws upon research conducted under contract with USAID’s office of Education (read the full youth engagement report here), as well as my own experiences working with young people.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Youth employment should be at the center of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Africa, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano da Silva told a joint African Union-European Union meeting, hosted at FAO headquarters in Rome.
While the narrative around agriculture in Africa can invoke a story of back-breaking labor and subsistence, with agriculture seen as a last resort option for poor, there is a much different story to cultivate. Investing in agriculture growth is 11 times more effective for overall economic growth when compared to other sectors such as mining, utilities, and services. In fact, estimates project that African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030.
Over the next few decades, agriculture will continue to be the dominant sector of employment and a vital source of labor for most young people in Africa. Harnessing youth’s potential to participate meaningfully in their food systems, from production to plate, has the potential to increase their productivity and revenues, as well as ensure the resilience and food security of their households.
Across Africa, the appetite for farming and venturing into farming as a business is evident. From Namibia to Zambia to Botswana, young people are flocking into agribusiness. Governments and business entities are responding to their interest. In Nigeria, for instance, the federal government, in partnership with the African Development Bank, is preparing to launch an ambitious 280 million Enable Youth Programme. It is an initiative that hopes to fund over 1000 youth-led agricultural enterprises in an effort to continue making agriculture attractive to youth.
Creating lasting change in developing communities means creating change for those communities’ young people. They will be the torchbearers of the practices put in place today, and are the future innovators for these nascent economies. Engaging youth in productive activities also has a positive impact beyond the economic sector, as youth employment can positively affect social and political stability around the globe.
This Rapid Market Assessment (RMA) was conducted at the request of the ILO to support the design and development of a 3-year project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and scheduled to run from 2017-2019 in Zimbabwe. The project aims to support women and youth in rural livelihoods to generate better and more sustainable income and employment opportunities by strengthening production and value-addition in a number of key rural economic sectors.
The demographic dividend has been touted as a potential source of growth for the African continent and its relatively young population. In the same vein, it comes with the challenge of employment creation that can absorb the large cohort of youth that is set to enter sub-Saharan
Africa’s labor markets in the approaching decades. Less positively, however, countries that fail to plan accordingly might miss these potential opportunities or the resulting youth bulge could increase the risk of social tension and other risks arising from high youth unemployment rates.
Not even the high temperatures, or the wind blowing dust, could deter Eliud Muchai from pushing a trolley filled with cooked camel meat sausages as he moved around looking for customers on his first day of work. At 19 years old, he knows all too well what it means to be unschooled, penniless, and homeless in Isiolo town, a region in Kenya’s arid lands that is characterized by economic and weather-related shocks.