In a Nation where agriculture accounts for 27% of the national GDP and a robust 30% employer of labor; why is food security and youth unemployment such an issue? The United Nations Development Programme indicated that food insecurity is linked to income and unemployment. However, when incomes are low and food prices are high, employment will not help much in improving access to food.
Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. It’s the state of having reliable access to enough quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Affordability and supply are two important factors as regards food security in Nigeria.
Unemployment is one of the developmental problems that face every developing economy in the 21st century. International statistics portray that industrial and service workers living in developing regions account for about two-thirds of the unemployed. Unemployment has been a problem in Nigeria, especially since 1980, when the nation’s economy took a turn for the worse as world petroleum prices tumbled, the Nigerian currency became devalued, corruption became rampant, and the population of Nigeria ballooned at a breathtaking pace.
President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, once said, “the youth are Africa’s greatest asset”. Unarguably, the critical role of millennials in Africa’s agriculture transformation has become a popular conversational recourse at many public convocations on the continent, in the recent past. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Agriculture to start with is an integral part of the African economy accounting for over 60% of the continent’s job opportunities.
Unfortunately, the sector is underperforming, and this is telling on the food security status of the continent. There is rampant importation to meet the increasing demand of an ever-rising population.
Take Nigeria for example, A country with a wide expanse of farmable land and favorable weather conditions for cultivation yet relying on imports for over 60% of its daily food consumption. Paradoxically, imports in themselves, are a virile indication of the profound opportunities inherent in the sector and the need for its transformation. Put differently, the scale of imports of agricultural commodities that can be produced locally demonstrates that demand exists.
Meeting that demand is however not a task for the current crop of farmers and certainly not going to be hinged on the prevalent production approaches – a generational shift is needed. While food demand will continue to far exceed accessible supplies, the fast pace of Africa’s population growth combined with the rapidly aging population of farmers, means that the agriculture potential of Africa may stall as the Next Generation avoid the food and agriculture business. To drive this further home, it is disturbing to point out that more than 80% of the continent’s total agricultural production is done by farmers with ages ranging between 54 and 72 years. A predominantly high number of them of these farmers are without the wherewithal or technological know-how to scale their operations.
According to the AfDB, Africa’s expanding youth population is a critical window for preparing an emerging workforce. This population is projected to reach 40% of the world’s total youth population by 2030, while the size of the food and agribusiness market in Africa is estimated to hit $1 trillion by the same time. With a land resource that stands at 65% of all available uncultivated arable land left in the world, what Africa does with agriculture will certainly determine the future of food in the world. It, therefore, follows that what Africa’s youth do in the food and agriculture space will certainly determine the continent’s competitiveness on the global front.
In Nigeria; Africa’s most populated country, the agricultural sector alone currently accounts for about 27% of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it the most viable space for economic growth and development if leveraged. In 2018, the sector grew at a rate of 2.12% in real terms (NGN17.5 Trillion) and is projected to grow to a rate of 8.37% by 2020 (NGN21 Trillion). But with the youth unemployment at precarious levels, such projections seem more like a pipe dream.
As things stand, Nigeria needs to create one million new jobs annually consecutively for the next 5 years in order to assuage the employment needs of its fast-growing youth population.
It goes without saying then that the challenge of food security and unemployment can be tackled simultaneously if the increase in the working-age population can translate into a concurrent increase in agricultural productivity and ultimately, a stronger and more inclusive economic growth across the continent.
Growing and sustaining Nigeria’s food and agribusiness sector must start by attracting a new generation of youthful ‘agropreneurs.’ This will include young leaders who will champion public policy and new technologies and develop viable businesses. These young leaders must be exposed to the world of global agriculture. They will be driven by values of entrepreneurship, honesty, integrity, service, and dedication to a hunger-free world”.
Cellulant boasts a robust system of technological solutions to drive agriculture from its perceived back end role and ‘’job for unskilled or illiterates’’ mentality to the forefront of development and eradicate unemployment amongst youths across the federation.
Utilizing the role of technology in nation-building and tacking unemployment has seen Cellulant committed to leveraging its technology to help block inefficiency and wastages in the Agric value chain through its improved payment and marketplace solutions, Tingg and Agrikore.
Agrikore is an innovative platform built on blockchain technology and connects all players in the Agric sector in over 120 African countries. Agrikore provides a platform whereby all players in the agricultural sector (farmers, truck loaders, community aggregators, food processors, banks, investors, retailers, etc.) can trade in a secure and safe ecosystem. Agrikore’s design is as such that Farmers can get adequate value for their farm produce by selling at favorable rates to all parties and supplying as when due, loaders can also transport these products from the farm in their most natural form to community aggregators who packages and makes them available to food processors.
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Cellulant’s co-Chief Executive Officer Ken Njoroge said Nigeria and other African countries have a comparative advantage in agriculture but needed efficiency in its value chain to achieve the desired impact on food security, job creation, and economic development.
“If you bring efficiency into the Agric value-chain, ensure that crops don’t rot in farms, trucks operate regularly, there will be no unemployed youth in rural areas, and no factory producing below capacity. If we can connect these dots, we can bring efficiency that can power the transformation of Nigeria and Africa across the board. The marketplace and payment platforms are connecting everyone. The payment platform ensures that everyone gets paid in real-time as transactions happen. We know it’s working; we are working with 120 banks on the continent; large businesses are our customers. This is a collaboration that continues to benefit all parties.” Ken said at the inaugural partner’s conference last December.
Highlighting Cellulant’s strides in improving Africa’s Agric value chain, Co-CEO Bolaji Akinboro also said at the event: “We are not just a technology fintech company; we have the technology and operations via Agrikore. When you combine technology and operations, you can change the world. We are providing technology that makes life better for everyone; Nigerians and Africans.”
In 2019, Through the Agrikore platform, Cellulant fed Nigeria for 1 day. Cellulant aims to grow that number astronomically over the years hence the projection to feed Nigeria for 7 days in 2020. By 2025, Cellulant will have fed the nation for 60-90days through Agrikore.
Agriculture, if properly embraced and funded via Agrikore will guarantee food security, reduction of poverty and unemployment rate in Nigeria. Diversification of the Nigerian economy through a functional investment in agriculture by individuals, government and the organized private sector will help solve the problem of food security and unemployment in Nigeria.