Africa needs empowered youth to keep pace with its population explosion—Youth champions

10 April 2021

With Africa’s population predicted to double by 2050, creating challenges such as high unemployment rates, low income, food insecurity, and persistent poverty, there needs to be a systemic change targeting the continent’s youth, who will make up about 60% of the overall population. IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga highlighted some of the required systemic changes in a joint IPS News Agency op-ed with Young Africa Works Executive Manager Aline Mugisho and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Nigeria.

Africa needs empowered youth to keep pace with its population explosion—Youth champions
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs introduced many young people to agribusiness possibilities.

“The youth, despite representing the majority of the population, still feel marginalized from the economic mainstream,” reads the op-ed. The authors note that market demands and limited opportunities suffocate youth expectations.

They recommend a system-wide change that is youth-friendly at all levels, potentially creating a niche market catering for graduates, early-career takers, and to some extent, non-school educated youth that remain vulnerable to political manipulation. Realizing a sustainable development agenda can only succeed if youth are mobilized, incentivized, energized, and equipped for transformation.

In a 2015 paper on the status of youth in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, David Sarfo Ameyaw and Eugenie Maiga note that rapid economic growth over the past 15 years has not been “pro-poor”, occurring primarily in sectors generating relatively few employment opportunities for youth.


Africa needs empowered youth to keep pace with its population explosion—Youth champions
The Oyo State Governor inaugurated the STEP Agribusiness Training Facility for Youth in 2020.

“The response to youth unemployment does not lie only in the creation of employment—they are also potential employers and entrepreneurs. As a result, growth needs to be promoted in sectors that can create viable youth-friendly opportunities,” the op-ed continues. They tout agriculture as one of those sectors because of its capacity to improve economic growth, food security, and income through farming.

The opportunities in various value-chains, including value addition activities, opens the agriculture sector to multiple layers of the population in an inclusive and applicable manner. This makes agriculture key to responding to Africa’s growing population needs.

IITA is a leading proponent of the Youth-in-Agribusiness model, investing heavily to empower youth as actors in agriculture through capacity building, research, employment, and entrepreneurship. This approach creates youth employment, preparing them also to create employment themselves.

Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 30 percent of the gross domestic product in most countries, employing over 60 percent of the working population, yet youth’s contribution to the sector remains marginal.

Africa needs empowered youth to keep pace with its population explosion—Youth champions
Students of Fasola Grammar School Oyo State are beneficiaries of STEP activities in the State.

Successful youth participation in agriculture will depend on the sector being profitable, competitive, and dynamic. IITA promotes this new paradigm through its Youth-in-Agribusiness initiatives: the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA), Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE)-Youth, ENABLE-TAAT (Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation), Young Africa Works-IITA Project, Youth Employment in Agribusiness and Sustainable Agriculture (YEASA), Agrihub, and Start Them Early Program (STEP). These programs have created a platform to engage young school children and unemployed or underemployed youth in agribusiness.

“IITA and partner organizations such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mastercard Foundation, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Oyo State Government, believe that poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in Africa cannot be addressed without involving women and young farmers.”

The Institute will continue to implement projects that respond to youth and women’s needs and help develop effective agribusiness policies and structures to empower and inspire young people in sub-Saharan Africa to fulfill their ambitions.

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