Is agriculture the answer to the Africa youth unemployment challenge?
Is agriculture the sector of opportunity for youth in sub-Saharan Africa? That was the question that was asked as part of a debate for the Mastercard Young Africa Works Summit in November 2015. Dr. Nteranya Sanginga – Director General International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Jim Sumberg from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), highlighted the pro’s and cons of this debate. Jim Sumberg presented four reasons to be cautious:
- There is a significant gap between, on the one hand, the characteristics of the agricultural sector that a recent book – “Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa” (pdf) – indicates would be required to support high levels of young employment; and on the other hand, the actual characteristics of African smallholder farming today.
- The discourse, and much of the programming meant to encourage young people into agriculture, fails to acknowledge the diversity that is evident between rural young people and rural areas.
- In the enthusiasm to promote agriculture as a sector of entrepreneurial opportunity for young people, it is not altogether clear that sufficient attention is being given to the qualities of the work and employment that are likely to be on offer.
- There is evidence that suggests that the futures that rural young people imagine for themselves are not the same as the vision of futures that are embedded in the policy and programmes that promote youth employment in agriculture
Other sessions of the Summit focused on private sector engagement, multistakeholder involvement and the including of the entire value chain as well as science, innovation and ICT. Key takeaways from the Summit included that agriculture can be more than a subsistence activity for young people, providing they have access to training, financial services and access to markets. It was reasoned that it is the conditions that determine whether young people will be able to establish and maintain sustainable livelihoods in the sector.