Education is key to lifting up Africa’s rural youth

AGRF 2020

The unemployment rate in Africa standards at almost 30 percent, according to data from the International Labour Organisation, which also confirms that a majority of the region’s youth are facing long-term unemployment.

At the same time, the working poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa affects more than 64 million youth, who have to do with less than $3.10 per day.

And with news that half of the university graduates entering the job market in Africa every will not find employment, it is not a surprise that 38 percent of those in sub-Saharan Africa and 35 per cent in Northern Africa show willingness to permanently move to another country.

Curiously, and even with the agricultural sector bearing the potential to create numerous jobs, youth continue to shun it, with the average age of farmers in Africa being almost 60 years.

However, a paradigm shift might be experienced with conversations now taking place on how to draw youth into the agriculture.

Among the key areas of concern are the increasing numbers of youth leaving the rural areas, where a majority of potential farm lands lie, for urban regions in the quest for better livelihoods just to find themselves in endless job quests.

“Rural youth are the least prepared to take advantage of the educational transformation because of the quality of education they receive and the kind of skills they acquire,” said Dr. Oliver Kirui of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the African Green Revolution Forum, in Kigali.

“The kind of training that is offered does not meet the requirements of the labour markets,” he added

Dr. Heike Baumüller, also of ZEF, recommends that digital opportunities be sought for youth in rural areas as a way to engage them meaningfully.

“Information services are useful for production planning and management of weather-related risks. The youth also need technologies to enlighten them on product pricing and trading opportunities,” said Baumüller.

Dr. Oluwole Fatunbi of the Forum Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), adds that governments and other stakeholders need to create funding channels that would allow the rural youth to competitively participate in agriculture.

Profitable farming is capital and knowledge intensive. You cannot make profit from farming without maximizing the economies of scale, and that is why we need to support mechanization and provide training,” said Fatunbi.

Furthermore, Dr. Kirui says it is imperative for the youth who are interested in agriculture to be equipped with skills that will make their products even more exciting to markets.

“We need to provide incentives for private sector participation and adapt to emerging innovating training delivery for private companies to hire the youth.”

“We should not just teach the young farmers to produce, but how to add value.”

The ultimate goal, panellists at the AGRF concluded, is to have as many rural youth as possible in Africa join the quest to reverse the food insecurity crisis that has led to more than 200 million people in the continent fighting starvation.