By JIMOH BABATUNDE
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, has called for entrepreneurial skills development for profitable agriculture and agribusiness enterprises among African youth.
Just as the Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department (OSAN), with the African Development Bank, Chiji Ojukwu, underscored the need for application of research, science and technology to enhance agricultural productivity as a way of making agriculture attractive to youth.
They both spoke during a three-day workshop on Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan recently.
The workshop aimed at raising awareness on the importance of engaging youth in agribusiness and following a value- and supply-chain approach, making a case for engaging African youth in agribusiness as a solution to the high youth unemployment on the continent, and building consensus around a multinational program for African youth engagement in agribusiness to address youth unemployment, contribute to economic growth, and poverty reduction.
Dr. Adesina said agriculture has become the new buzz in Nigeria, with vibrant, young graduates moving into the business of agriculture.
“President Jonathan, in 2013, launched the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) to create a new generation of young commercial farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs (“Nagropreneurs”)”
He added “This will develop a total of 760,000 ‘Nagropreneurs’ within five years. Today, young graduates and bankers are leaving the banks and heading for agriculture. The new millionaires and billionaires of Nigeria will be in agriculture. It is a new dawn.”
The Minister said the youths will be assisted the Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZ), which he said is the ministry’s new model of unlocking wealth from agriculture in rural areas.
“We are developing staple crop processing zones (SCPZ), which are new agricultural infrastructure-enabled zones to attract agribusiness investors into rural areas.
“The staple crop processing zones will solve the infrastructure challenges and constraints of the agro-processing industry, drive social and economic impacts, offer a superior operating environment for downstream players as well as create a new platform for private sector investment in agriculture.”
The Minister disclosed that Agriculture is the key for Africa’s future as the size of the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Africa is expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2030.
About 20 African countries have thrown their weight behind the IITA Youth Agripreneur (IYA) initiative—a pilot scheme that is engaging youths in agriculture with clear signals of ending youth unemployment in the continent. The initiative has also been endorsed by the IITA Board of Trustees, according to Dr Namanga Ngongi, IITA Board member.
IYA changes the mindset of young people towards agriculture and equips them with various opportunities in the production and marketing of agricultural products, cutting across value chains such as cassava, banana/plantain, soybean, maize, vegetables, livestock, and fish production.
The countries supported the IYA initiative in a communiqué at the end of a conceptualization workshop on Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa held at IITA in Ibadan recently.
About 200 participants reviewed the current unemployment situation in the continent, and noted that youth unemployment and underemployment are high, with over 70% of the population between 15 and 24 years in many countries under-/unemployed, if not outright unemployed.
The countries noted that the present situation threatens not only food security but also the national security of all African countries, and may compromise the attainment of the targets set under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).