“There are still numerous untapped opportunities [in agriculture] for passionate young Africans.”
— Ndidi Nwuneli
Nigerian businesswoman Ndidi Nwuneli believes that Africa’s agriculture sector “presents unique opportunities for young African leaders who want to serve as change agents on the continent.” Nwuneli co-founded AACE Food Processing and Distribution Ltd. and is a partner in Sahel Capital Partners in Nigeria.
According to the World Bank, agriculture is essential for sub-Saharan Africa’s growth and for achieving the goal of halving poverty by 2015. The sector employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of the region’s gross domestic product. Increased agricultural production is expected to continue to support growth in Africa’s economy, the bank reports.
Women’s advocate and agribusiness specialist Ruth Oniang’o shares Nwuneli’s belief that agriculture makes a good career choice. “Young people have a great opportunity to create jobs and to contribute to feeding the continent in a sustainable way. Agriculture is now great business,” she said, citing growing global focus on hunger and malnutrition.
Oniang’o founded the Rural Outreach Programme in Kenya, an advocacy group for women and youth in agriculture. She is an honorary professor of nutrition at the Great Lakes University of Kisumu, Kenya; editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development based in Nairobi; and chair of the Sasakawa Africa Association, which focuses on agricultural development in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali and Uganda.
The agricultural experts welcomed queries for advice for members of the YALI Network.
Nwuneli says that she is “excited about the impact that young Africans” might make through the leadership, partnership and mentoring programs available through the YALI Network and the Mandela Washington Fellowship program.
“I urge [YALI Network members] to use the amazing exposure, training and networks that you have gained through YALI, coupled with your talents, time and energy, to change our world for the better,” Nwuneli said. “I pray that you will find your life’s purpose early in life, and that you will pursue it passionately, diligently and ethically.”
Nwuneli urges African youth to consider careers in agriculture as entrepreneurs or employment with an agribusiness or in public policymaking. For those considering starting their own companies, “There are still numerous untapped opportunities for passionate young Africans who want to engage across the agricultural value chain from inputs, to production, to post-harvest, storage, logistics, processing, distribution, and information and communications technology,” she says.
“If you are passionate and resilient, you will ultimately enjoy the fruits of your labor,” she states.
”There are many multinational and indigenous companies and civil society organizations in the agribusiness sector that are desperately looking for hardworking and committed employees with strong ethical values,” Nwuneli says.
“These companies are interested in hiring young Africans, regardless of their education background or work experiences, provided they have a strong interest in learning more about the agricultural sector and taking on the challenges and opportunities that the sector presents.”
In the area of policy, Nwuneli says, “there is still a strong need for reforms in the agricultural sector within countries and across regions in Africa. African youth who are passionate about policy reforms can serve as advocates in the public sector, pushing for an enabling environment for agribusinesses to thrive [and] necessary investment in infrastructure.”
“The time for Africa is now,” Oniang’o adds.