Africa’s Youth at the Centre of Building a Sustainable Future for Agriculture- Bolaji Akinboro
Africa’s future is banked on Agriculture which currently accounts for two thirds of livelihoods and food accounts for two thirds of the household budgets. Most farmers are about 55 years and life-expectancy averages between 55–60 years. We spend more than $35B in food imports to feed its growing population. This is worrying and could prove detrimental to our economic future. The math simply does not add up. If we rely heavily on agriculture, and our farmers are ageing and dying, how are we going to sustain our economies and feed the population? We need to build a more self-sustainable strategy when it comes to Agricultural production. The answers lies in building a long-term strategy starting with empowering the youth and urging them into agriculture.
Youth make up about 50% of Africa’s population with unemployment levels of roughly 28%. The number of young people of working age is increasing while this same group continues to shy away from careers in agriculture. Why? Image! Agriculture has an image problem which contributes to the little interest youth might have in agriculture. And for those who might express interest in the sector-there is no adequate support from both public and private sectors.
Technology might be the link to getting more young Africans interested in exploring careers in agriculture. We already know that technology is revolutionising agriculture. For example, data collection, monitoring and evaluation has been made easier using mobile apps and financial access has been made easier by mobile payment solutions across Africa. These are clear cases that we need to invest in information technology and provide the training that will advance the practices that power this Agricultural production. More youth need to harness the potential opportunities in agricultural activities to empower themselves especially in the use of Technology in giving extension services and inputs to farmers thereby posing an alternative to older hands in the public and private sector of agriculture.
The opportunities that exist today in agriculture need to be redirected to the youth.There is a great potential for agriculture to be optimised to provide the kinds of outputs that will help the population in Africa- but first we must make agriculture look “cool” and a demandable career for the youth.