2017 World Food Prize Shines Spotlight on Attracting African Youth to Spur Agricultural Transformation

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Agriculture is the engine of growth powering economies across the African continent. Attracting African young people to the agricultural sector to pursue career and entrepreneurial opportunities is key in spurring Africa’s agricultural transformation.

The Initiative for Global Development and collaborating partner African Development Bank joined leading global agriculture-related organizations and institutions — African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD), Iowa State University, Dow DuPont and the Swedish Agricultural University — in hosting a series of activities, where young African “agripreneurs” or entrepreneurs engaged in the agricultural value chain gained real-world insights into emerging agriculture technologies and modern agricultural practices, during the 2017 World Food Prize event in Des Moines, Iowa.

The World Food Prize, held from Oct. 16-20, recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The 2017 World Food Prize was awarded to Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, for his work in improving the availability of seed, fertilizer and financing for African farmers, and creating a platform to engage African youth in building profitable businesses.

The daylong tour on Oct. 17 in Des Moines with African agripreneurs from the AfDB’s ENABLE Youth program exposed young people in the agricultural industry to innovations in field equipment, quality seed production and processing technologies, food processing, and other emerging technologies. Agripreneurs heard firsthand from leading experts in Iowa’s agricultural industry on how agriculture must be practiced as a business and its potential in revitalizing rural communities.

With about 60% of the continent’s population under age of 35, the AfDB estimates that over the next 15 years 300 million young Africans will enter the job market with few job opportunities.

Despite the enormous career opportunities in the agricultural value chain, misperceptions about working in agriculture have deterred young people from pursuing jobs in the sector. Dr. Adesina said the African Development Bank is accelerating investments in young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs to create jobs and absorb the number of unemployed youths entering the workforce.  Through the Bank’s ENABLE Youth program, African youth in the agricultural value chain are empowered to launch viable and profitable agribusinesses.

“To succeed with its agriculture, Africa needs younger and educated people in the sector. They will take agriculture as a business. They will make agriculture ‘cool’,” the AfDB president said.

Joyce Kyalema, a young Ugandan agripreneur, operates Pumpkin Value Addition enterprise which trains and employs some 30 people in producing pumpkin juice, bread, powder,and seeds. Kyalema said the tour of agriculture-related facilities at Iowa State University helped her to  “identify an opportunity for me to come back for further training with the Food Science Department on food processing techniques, that will help me with my business in processing various pumpkin products.”

Dr. Dianah Ngonyama, president of AAAPD, who organized the tour said, underscored the importance of investing in African youth and providing them with the necessary training and skills in advanced agricultural technologies to transform African agriculture. “Unlike the old generation of African farmers, these young agripreneurs are more willing to learn new methods of agricultural production and value addition through processing of produce into high-value products, and employing new marketing tools,” said Ngonyama.

The “Making Farming Cool: Investing in Future African Farmers and Agripeneurs” side-event during the World Food Prize 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, on Oct. 18, featured keynote remarks with AfDB President Adesina and panels on scaling up Africa’s youth employment  and sustaining support for youth agribusiness development.

The event was co-hosted with the African Development Bank, Initiative for Global Development, Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora, Michigan State University, Iowa State University and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

An engaging “roadside chat” with Afropop host and legendary broadcaster Georges Collinet and agripreneurs during the side event highlighted the challenges and opportunities faced by young Africans working in the agriculture sector. Collinet is also the producer of the “Making Farming Cool!” podcast series, a joint production of IGD and Afropop Worldwide.