In answering the question how best to make Africa’s economic development beneficial for youth, special attention must be focused on how to engage youth in agriculture. INCLUDE and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (FBKP) attended a seminar on 20 January 2016 in Wageningen, the Netherlands, on entrepreneurship and innovations in developing countries for the involvement of young people in farming. The concluding statements were highly diverse, which is reflected in the two main conclusions drawn from the meeting: that we should learn from initiatives that create new ICT jobs in agri-value chains and that we should draw more attention to the cognitive challenges that young entrepreneurs face.
The seminar titled ‘The Future of Food: what role can agri-entrepreneurship and farming innovations play to engage young women and men in the agricultural sector?’ was hosted by the Center for Development Innovation (CDI) of Wageningen University and Research Center. The seminar and its participants discussed a broad range of constraints, challenges and opportunities that were based on concrete experiences of organizations.
The need of youth employment creation in Africa
The first part of the seminar provided insights from three different perspectives: research, youth networks and farmer cooperatives. Ken Lohento of the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) outlined some findings from the recent study, ‘Africa’s young entrepreneurs: unlocking the potential for a brighter future’. This study was conducted by IDRC as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) project. It found that people under the age of 25 in Sub-Saharan Africa are three times more often to be unemployed than adults, and this subgroup makes 62% of the total population in the region. The essential job creation should come from rapid growing companies, yet in practice very few jobs are created, even in countries with many entrepreneurs. For instance, 78% of the youth businesses in Angola have created up to five jobs per business. However in Malawi, 88% of the youth businesses do not even create additional jobs. Almost 75% of the youth businesses indicated they were using technologies or procedures that are more than five years ago. The majority of the new youth businesses are in retail trade, hotels and the restaurant industry. The share of agriculture in these businesses is very low: agriculture, forestry and fishing together have a share of approximately 10%. Furthermore, young women are as actively involved in entrepreneurial activities as young men. However, young female business owners are 1.3 times more likely to only offer employment to themselves and no employees in comparison to businesses owned by young men.
Stigmatization of youth
Simon Bailey of Aflatoun, a network organization for children’s rights, addressed cognitive constraints for the engagement of youth in agriculture and their access to value chains. For example, Aflatoun is struggling with the challenges of hierarchical structures inside communities that prevent youth from ownership of assets or inclusion in decision-making processes, particularly in local programmes in Ghana and Uganda. Also, entrepreneurial attitudes, freedom from stigmatization and psychological well-being are important requirements for successful engagement in agriculture.1 Several images are feeding the stigmatization of agriculture, including the rural peripheries that are associated with poverty, the feeling of failure and being left behind. On the opposite end, cities are seen as sources of wealth, opportunity and success. Institutional arrangements, such as targeted financing or safety nets, can make agriculture as an image more attractive, especially with specific programmes that are aimed towards changing attitudes, images and cognitive capacities that, in general, could make a difference. This approach has a double benefit even: it increases the assets that the youth possess and; helps them improve their psychological and cognitive status. It is also sustainable as it seeks to reconnect different generations and transfer knowledge between them.
ICT as a fertile opportunity
In another session, the topic focused on how ICT can offer opportunities for work creation in the improvement of agri-chains. Experiences have shown that capacity building and training of young (potential) entrepreneurs does pay off. In the café session, CTA and others shared their successful initiatives of attracting youth in agri-business by using ICT. Sharing information about the farming business through social media (such as Facebook and WhatsApp) has improved skills of young farmers. Also teaching them how to exchange knowledge via blogs such as Yobloco and social media initiatives such as Makuli MaYoung has been positively welcomed by young professionals. In addition, helping these farmers get their voices heard at hackatons or at incubation ICT centers has become a beneficial strategy. The Ugandan digital platform for financial inclusion Ensibuuko is an example of a young social enterprise that sprouted from such an initiative. It has become a profitable company that creates disruptive digital solutions to make financial services easily accessible to unbanked and underserved people. Further, M-farm Kenya is a digital service that provides up-to-date market prices through a text message that is sent directly to farmers. It also gives users the opportunity to connect with buyers and farmers in their community to sell their produce. Through the social enterprise Hello tractor in Nigeria, low income farmers can measure the fertility of their soils with a mobile phone. Such powerful ICT tools and their broad scope, plus the fact that they are being developed by young professionals should be given more attention. There is a huge opportunity in ICT development for young people with an entrepreneurial spirit, particularly for those entrepreneurs who are not yet active in the field of agriculture. Its about time young entrepreneurs start to show their potential added value to ICT startups. FAO, CTA and ITU are now acknowledging the need for national E-agriculture strategies to better stimulate this entrepreneurship growth.
At the end of the session, many issues from many angles around the world had been discussed. It was decided that from the seminar in December and this January event that enough themes and (knowledge) questions had been collected. It became clear that working together in the future could be a good way forward. Both the DGIS- knowledge platforms of INCLUDE and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform will explore the various parties’ needs and motivations to continue this running theme in the coming period. To begin, the F&BKP Office will set up a mind mapping session for various stakeholders and initiatives that are active in the field of youth employment in agriculture.
For further information, please contact: Vanessa Nigten (F&BKP Office) firstname.lastname@example.org; Frank van Kesteren (INCLUDE Secretariat) email@example.com