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The 2018 African Youth Agripreneur Forum and AgriPitch Competition will be held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on 9 – 13 April 2018 under the theme “Technologies and Innovations for Youth in Agribusiness”.
Africa has the largest population share of young people in the world. According to the African Union, 60 percent of the population is below the age of 35 and there are 420 million youth aged 15-35 in Africa. This large share of the youth population is expected to continue growing for the next 20-30 years. More than 50 percent of the youth population in Africa currently live in rural areas but are most likely to move to urban centers in the future and become part of the pull for agricultural demand.
The majority of youth in Africa do not have stable economic opportunities. Youth are two to three times more likely than adults to be unemployed and the majority of the working youth are poor and employed in vulnerable, low quality jobs, in the informal sector. There are approximately 11-12 million youth entering the labour force every year in Africa – whereas only three million jobs are created annually, leaving a shortfall of 8-9 million youth without formal jobs. Lack of good jobs for the youth has become a major political concern and can be seriously destabilizing to the society.
While the agriculture sector offers significant employment and economic growth opportunities, lack of access to land, finance, markets, technologies and practical skills are major stumbling blocks to youth participation. Recent research indicates that as African economies transform, there are expanding opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship throughout high-potential value chains where consumer demand is increasing. However, major efforts are needed to provide young Africans with new technologies and innovations that will allow them to transition from subsistence agriculture into more commercial and higher-paying work.
New technologies and innovations along the whole agricultural value chain are critical for the development of agriculture in Africa. Whether it’s satellites that provide accurate climate data, Internet of Things-style devices like smartphones, or cutting-edge innovations like blockchain, i.e. technology that could be game changers in boosting agricultural productivity and resilience in a more sustainable way. Precision technology such as smart irrigation devices that combine automated soil water sensors and cloud-based data analytics can boost crop yields while cutting water use. Big data from remote sensing and GIS-enabled technologies for agro-weather analytics will enable smallholders to know how and when to apply inputs for optimal results. ICT technologies and innovations for machinery leasing are reversing the trend of low mechanization by allowing farmers to hire affordable tractors to work their land, all through their mobile phones. Blockchain technology could potentially expand rural finance by making financial transactions more accessible and less expensive, and allow farmers and others throughout the value chain to manage their supply chain more efficiently.
There are clear possibilities for drawing the youth to the agriculture sector as agripreneurs, by harnessing new technologies and innovations and applying a value chain approach. The result would be more jobs for young people, increased food production for a growing population, less reliance on food imports and a healthier trade balance for African countries. Under the Feed Africa Strategy, the African Development Bank is implementing the Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth Program to demonstrate that with greater access to agribusiness enterprise youth can become the driving force of agricultural transformation in Africa.
To date, the Bank has committed over USD 800 million to ENABLE Youth investments on the continent. With the right skills, technologies and improved access to finance, young African men and women can become the proud owners of profitable agribusiness enterprises. The Bank has also launched the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Framework that aims to radically improve agriculture as a business across Africa by taking to scale productivity-increasing technologies for various commodities and creating an enabling environment for technology adoption by farmers. The Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) Strategy promote youth empowerment through jobs creation and entrepreneurship with the objective of supporting the creation of 25 million of jobs over the next 10 years.
The 2018 African Youth Agripreneur Forum (AYAF) and AgriPitch Competition will be co-hosted by the Government of Cote d’Ivoire and the African Development Bank and is expected to attract over 400 participants from across the continent including youth agripreneurs, agribusiness companies, investors, academia and development partners, among others.
The AgriPitch Competition includes a three-day (9–11 April) boot camp where the youth will receive training on business models, market needs assessment, intellectual property rights (IPR), innovation development process, business financing, proposal writing and business pitching. They will also be mentored by investors and leaders of established companies. The AYAF (12–13 April) will then provide a platform for the youth to discuss thematic issues with experts, business leaders, investors and policy makers.
• Young African graduates and/or entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector
• Young agripreneurs already running agribusinesses with experiences to share
• Private sector leaders providing services in the agriculture sector (insurance, logistics, financial institutions, ICTs, etc.)
• Development partners supporting the agriculture sector and in particular youth employment
• Decision makers and other policy actors from government, civil society and international organizations
The forum will bring together over 400 youth from across the continent. The youth will be selected based on the following criteria:
• Active in agribusiness or agriculture sector in priority value chains;
• Promoting innovation for increased production, processing and marketing;
• Current membership in a youth network or association;
• Possessing skills to share and disseminate agribusiness information and knowledge;
• Being a youth mentor and/or incubatee in active incubation activities;
• Ability to pitch and share business value proposition with others;
• Gender balance: 50% women and 50% men;
• Active participant from all African countries.
The above selection criteria will be shared with relevant government ministries that have the responsibility to select participants. Development partners in agricultural transformation and agribusiness value chain development will be invited to sponsor participants to the Forum. This will allow engagement of various partners and organizations in a way that continues to support the Forum.
These partners include, but not be limited to: African Union Youth Desk and NEPAD; IITA Agripreneurs; CTA Agrihack & Youth Farmers Network; African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN) Incubators and mentors, AU-IBAR; AGRA Youth in Agribusiness and Advocacy Network; Africa Lead (USAID) for Youth Champions in Agribusiness Network; Y-PARD for Young Professionals in Agriculture; FARA Youth in Agriculture Network; African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD); RUFORUM youth and agribusiness students; the Initiative for Global Development; FAO supported Agribusiness youth networks and mentors; Ministries of Agriculture from all African countries, including private incubators and hubs