In this guest post from Farming First, Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, Programme Manager at FANRPAN and Farming First steering committee member, shares steps for helping African youth to realize their potential to transform the continent’s systems of agriculture. This post originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Global Food for Thought blog.
There are more young people in the world than ever before.
1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to UN estimates. For some, this presents an unprecedented potential for economic and social progress. For Africa, however, the world’s youngest region and home to over 200 million young people, this could easily be a ticking time bomb.
According to the 2016 Africa Agriculture Status Report, the region’s rapid population growth is due to rising life expectancy, declines in death rates, particularly of children, and more recently to lower fertility rates, especially among educated urban women. While child mortality rates have declined, fertility rates have remained high, leading to the “youth bulge” that the region is now experiencing.
Youth unemployment, vulnerable employment and working poverty levels in Africa are at an all-time high, with little signs of potential recovery, according to the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook (2016). Youth employment has, therefore, become an important policy priority in most countries. There is great interest to identify sources of productive employment and effective strategies to promote job creation and economic growth in Africa.
The agriculture sector in Africa holds tremendous promise for catalyzing growth and creating employment opportunities for the world’s largest youth population. The importance of the agricultural sector as an employer, is likely to grow with continued transformation of food systems and growth in domestic demand for food. African leaders have committed to create job opportunities for at least 30% of the youth in agricultural value chains by 2025.
But this will not happen overnight. Young people wanting to break into the agriculture sector face several challenges that undermine their economic potential and ability to influence existing policy processes. Studies conducted by FANRPAN in 12 East and Southern African countries found that many young people are unable to fulfill their potential because they face constraints in gaining access to land, credit, training, new technologies.