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African Development Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, has cautioned that joblessness among young people is one of the most pressing social, economic and political challenges facing Africa in the 21st Century. She was speaking at a Consultative Workshop organised by the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department in collaboration with the Office of the Special Envoy on Gender and the Human Development Department. The objective of the workshop was deliberate on a proposed innovative programme titled “Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture (ENABLE Youth)”. Once developed, the programme will be implemented in 20 Regional Member Countries of the Bank under the coordination of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
The programme will be designed to reinforce the roles of disenfranchised young African adults through a comprehensive outreach approach involving providing information, life-skills education (effective and functional job training), proven technologies and opportunities to at least 800,000 youth in 20 RMCs. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Other opportunities within the programme are 20,000 internships, 10,000 agribusiness startups, and 30,000 new jobs in rural and urban areas, leading to incomes of at least US $450 per month.
“Over 10 million young people in Africa are entering the job market each year. Despite the strong growth performance of African economies over the recent years, the continent has failed to create the number of jobs needed to absorb these young people,” said Fraser-Moleketi. She noted that innovative programmes, such as the ENABLE Youth Programme, could effective in improving employment and income outcomes for young people.
She observed that the youth faced numerous obstacles and constraints that inhibit and undermine commercial viability of agribusiness enterprises. Key among these include lack of access to land, skills and knowledge to improve production efficiency, start-up finances and funds for expansion and the acquisition of new technologies and other support services.
Young women face additional layers of challenges due to gender-based discrimination through traditional patriarchal customs manifested through social norms and customary rights. Their minimal access to resources such as land, credit and technology hampers their capacity to leverage agricultural production into business opportunities. They have since remained within the realm of subsistence operations and peasantry, added Moleketi.
The meeting was attended by key players in the agricultural sector such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), and West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD). Others were International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the Ministries of Agriculture and Food Security of Cameroon and Ghana. Key Development Partners represented at the workshop were the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), SNV Development Organization of Netherlands, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Heifer International. The partners welcomed the program noting its potential to arouse and sustain the interest of youth in agriculture and agribusinesses, leading to widespread employment for youth in Africa.
The partners also shared experiences on initiatives they are implementing, and called on the Bank to leverage and build on the existing knowledge and emerging good practices. The critical roles of effective coordination, robust funding and enabling policies for programmes, such as the ENABLE Youth initiative, were underscored.
The Bank’s Sector Operations Vice-President Aly Abou-Sabaa reiterated the ENABLE Youth’s potential in employment creation even among women in Africa.