Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Stop looking at youths as a problem but a resource, young entrepreneurs tell AGRF

By Friday Phiri – Lusaka, Zambia

A panel of youth entrepreneurs at the AGRF in Lusaka
Africa is currently endowed with a large population of young people with 65 percent of the population being below the age of 35 and experts believe these figures present an enormous opportunity that, if leveraged, could turn around the continent's food fortunes and drive its economic growth.

With this background, young Agribusiness entrepreneurs attending the 2015 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which opened in Lusaka on 29th September have urged their governments to develop policies that favour youth’s participation in agricultural enterprises.

4-H Africa Managing Director, Shingi Nyamwanza says time has come for Africa to stop looking at youths as a problem but rather, as a resource for the continent’s agricultural transformation.

Nyamwanza believes that early childhood mentoring could make a significant difference in turning around Africa’s economic fortunes through agriculture, which most young people still view as an old fashioned and poor profession.

“It is difficult to convince and change the perception of a youth who has already been to the University to get into agriculture, which they have always seen as an old-timer profession meant for the retired”, Nyamwanza explains.

“For example, in the United States of America, children as young as seven are encouraged to follow issues that are curious about and end up being professionals in such particular fields”, she said, adding that it was time Africa took a similar stance to involve young people as they are part of society.

And Nyamwanza thinks 4-H Africa focus areas which involve preparing Africa’s young people to meet urgent regional needs, including hunger, sustainable livelihoods, and food security, are crucial.

According to available data, 4-H Africa independent country programs set a three-year goal to equip 250,000 young people in Sub-Saharan Africa with the knowledge and skills needed for improved, sustainable livelihoods.

Currently, the programs are said to reach more than 320,000 youth (ages 6-24) through 4-H Enterprise Gardens, an Africa-based model that equips young Africans with knowledge and tangible skills—helping to fuel transformational change in their communities.

Meanwhile, echoing the concerns of young people, Kenyan based Agriculture market information hub, M-Farm founder and Chief Executive Officer, Jamila Abass outlined two key foundations for youth participation in Africa’s green revolution.

“Firstly, young people are impatient and it does not work to tell them to get into a largely driven rain-fed agriculture where the risk of losing everything at once is high even when you convince them that agriculture is multi-million dollar industry”, says Jamila, pointing out that rain water harvest systems should be an infrastructure priority to attract youths into agriculture.

And the second pillar according to Jamila is a reliable information system with real time updates for young people to make informed decisions explain that “currently, almost all African countries have no reliable available data on what works and vice-versa”.

Therefore, the announcement by US President Barack Obama of a one billion dollar fund for African youth & women during the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, strengthened AGRA’s support to youth agriculture entrepreneurship over the years
The onus is now on the youths and policy makers to take advantage of the available support and be part of Africa’s Green revolution agenda.

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