FAO targets agriculture to arrest Africa’s threatening youth unemployment

Agriculture provides the key to rolling back the lingering youth unemployment and poverty in Africa, an official of the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has said.

Assistant Director General of the FAO Bukar Tijani said in an interview here on Thursday that there was the need to develop avenues for youth to grab opportunities along the agriculture value chain in order to end the youth unemployment.

Africa’s population is estimated at 1.2 billion with 60 percent under the age of 25, making the continent a youthful territory.

“If you look at the trends in Africa, in the next few decades will have up to 350 million youth who will not be employed and globally it is South-east Asia and Africa that will have the highest unemployment in the world,” Tijani observed.

He however added; “Statistics within FAO, World Bank and the World Economic Forum, that agriculture has the highest potential for the youth who are not employed. So this is why the thinking is towards youth employment in agriculture as a solid solution to ending hunger and poverty in Africa.”

The FAO will on Monday and Tuesday hold a two-day Youth and Agriculture in Africa conference in Kigali Rwanda under the theme: ‘Youth Employment in Agriculture as a Solid Solution to ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa; Engaging through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Entrepreneurship.’

Ahead of the conference Tijani who is the Africa Regional Representative of FAO disclosed on Thursday that delegates will be focusing on all aspects of agriculture including livestock , forestry, aquaculture; and other artisanal fishery and their value chains.

The conference will also discuss how youth have participated so far in the primary production; outside of the primary production; marketing; transportation; ICT to boost the production; the weather patterns; Climate Change issues and aspects of market prices, among others.

If well harnessed, the agriculture sector will be able to throw up many opportunities for the youth on the continent, added Tijani.

“So we are going beyond some of these normal things that we are looking at to give a very broad picture and a platform for youth to partner and network with their colleagues from other parts of the continent,” he added.

The youth will not be networking with youth from Africa alone, but will also be networking with private sector players and financial institutions which h have programs and policies on youth.

Generally speaking the FAO official observed that the farmer population in Africa was aging creating room for more people to enter into the sector to replace the ageing farmers.

He quipped: “The average age of a farmer in Africa they say is 65 years as it is right now. So where are those youth which are from 15 years to 35 years; when are they coming in; Who is going to feed Africa; Or is Africa going to be dependent?”

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