Agribusiness seen as a solution to high youth unemployment on the continent

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The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, has called for entrepreneurial skills development for profitable agriculture and agribusiness enterprises among African youth.

The call was made during a three-day workshop on Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria, from May 28-30. The workshop was attended by senior officials from over 15 African countries and development partners, including the African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), among others.

The workshop aimed at raising awareness on the importance of engaging youth in agribusiness and following a value- and supply-chain approach, making a case for engaging African youth in agribusiness as a solution to the high youth unemployment rate on the continent, and building consensus around a multinational program for African youth engagement in agribusiness to address youth unemployment, contribute to economic growth, and poverty reduction. Also addressing participants at the workshop, Chiji Ojukwu, Director of the AfDB Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department (OSAN), underscored the need for application of research, science and technology to enhance agricultural productivity and thereby make farming attractive to youth.

Other highlights of the workshop included the presentation of plaques to both Minister Adesina and Ojukwu in recognition of their contributions towards agricultural and agribusiness development in Africa; a tour of ongoing IITA initiatives, including those managed by the IITA Youth Agripreneurs and the seed storage facility financed by the Bank under the ‘Multinational – CGIAR Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) Project; the announcement of a grant of US $500,000 in support of the Youth Agribusiness Incubation initiative at IITA by the Minister; and finally, the Minister’s personal award of US $500 to a young Nigerian agricultural student, Obidele Luqman, whose project on “Utilization of Poultry Waste to Generate Biogas” won the Budding Engineers, Scientists and Technologists best project award in a competition organized by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education.

The workshop provided a platform for disseminating survey results on youth issues as perceived by the youth; sharing information on partner institutions’ programs, experiences and approaches; learning about the experience of the IITA Youth Agripreneur program, which  brings together participants from Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia; and engaging on group discussions to define key problems, root causes, results, outputs, activities, indicators, and targets in developing a framework for a programme for interventions aimed at contributing to youth engagement in agribusiness in Africa.

Bank staff from OSAN, the office of the Special Envoy on Gender, the Human Development Department and the Nigeria Country Office (ORNG) also participated in the workshop. A concept note for a multinational programme for youth engagement in agriculture and agribusiness is being developed for funding by a task force led by the IITA.