FAO to open Youth and Agriculture in Africa conference in Kigali

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is to open its Youth and Agriculture in Africa conference on Monday 27th of August in Rwanda (Kigali).

The conference seeks to bring together more than five hundred delegates, mostly young people from across Africa to discuss ways of boosting employment opportunities in agriculture on the continent through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT).

The conference’s focus will be on sustainable solutions for decent youth employment in agriculture in Africa – such as minimising the  drudgery in agriculture while harnessing opportunities in agribusiness, entrepreneurship and innovation to enhance their productivity and competitiveness. Delegates will include policymakers, development partners, the private sector, youth and women organisations, civil society organisations, research and academia.

Speaking to the B&FT, the FAO Assistant General and Regional Representative for Africa, Mr. Bukur Tijani, noted that Africa has a population of about 1.2 billion people with more than 60% under the age of 25-yrs. Most African youth are unemployed, with young people from 15-24 years old expected to more than double in number in the coming decades. This, he indicated, will be mostly in rural areas; and by 2035, there will be need for 350 million new jobs with Africa’s population growing faster than job-creation.

Mr. Tijani indicated that to curb migration of the youth across the Mediterranean to various countries in Europe, Africa has to create jobs through agriculture – which includes livestock, forestry (wood & non-wood) and aqua culture.

“Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world; cocoa is a perennial crop, a forest crop. How many youths are in the primary production, how many youths are in Marketing, how many are in transportation, how many are in ICT?” he questioned. This, he said, is an opportunity for the youth to partner and network among themselves, as well as with the private sector, to create jobs.

“The private sector sees agriculture as a risky area, but we are going to see how best we can reduce the risk in this area to make agriculture attractive to the private sector,” he noted.

“ICT can be a strong catalyst, and the youth must use it to check the prices of staple food in various parts of the world; ISSOKO is an example that is very common in East Africa,” he noted.

“ICT can be used for research, to check weather patterns, as well as be used in the value chain, including Marketing, Distribution and Branding,” he noted. Some of these technologies in food production and processing include cloud-computing, soil sensors, and drones.

The FAO regional representative for Africa lamented the decreasing life-expectancy of farmers in Africa. This, he said, will affect Africa’s agenda to be self-sufficient in food production – hence the need to make agriculture an attractive sector for the youth as a means of livelihood.

The major theme of the conference is digital innovation to overcome agriculture value chain-related constraints: focusing on innovative solutions to support youth-related digital innovation and modern production technologies in agriculture; and youth-focused networking and engagement around entrepreneurship, innovation and agriculture.

The role of the FAO is to support governments in the design and implementation of strategies that more effectively target rural youth. FAO also works with governments to integrate youth issues into national agricultural investment plans (NAIPs).                       

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