Unemployment among the youth is growing. The figure increases every year with them constituting more than 50 per cent of Africa's unemployed population.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that of about 10 to 12 million youths that enter the job market yearly, only three million secure employment in the formal sector.
As unemployment continues to hurt the youth, AfDB 's President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has noted that engaging them in efforts to address unemployment challenges is more relevant and important.
Since he assumed office at the bank's headquarters in Abidjan some two years ago, Adesina has attempted to draw African governments'attention to the impact of implementing initiatives to enhance the agribusiness sector, while enabling the youth to gain employment and improve their livelihoods.
According to Adesina, the bank is undertaking a number of initiatives to stop the unemployment crisis, including the Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) Strategy, designed to create 25 million jobs and positively impact about 50 million youth over the next decade. The bank has also embarked on Empowering Novel Agri-Business Led Employment (ENABLE), an initiative which aims at promoting youth entrepreneurship in agriculture and agri-business.
Adesina stressed that ENABLE championed by the IITA has received the support of the bank. This, according to him, will give room for the emergence of new agripreneurs, who will help re-brand the agricultural sector.
At the IITA station in Abuja, Adesina said his determination to create a continental wide platform for the African youth to generate wealth and create employment, was a deliberate attempt to ensure that the continent was able to feed itself again.
He said the level of hunger, poverty, food importation and insecurity in the continent has increased over the years because the youths, who are supposed to bring about the dynamic change needed to support Africa's dream of feeding itself, were massively migrating to the western world illegally in search of greener pastures.
Last year, the bank approved ENABLE Youth Nigeria programme and provided a $250 million loan, to contribute to job creation, food security and nutrition, rural income generation and improved livelihoods for youths in urban and rural areas.
The programme will be implemented in all the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The targeted beneficiaries are in two categories. The first are the unemployed young Nigerian graduates from any field of study, who have finished their National Youth Service Corp programme (Greenfield), while the second are graduate youths, who are already successfully engaged in agribusiness, but have no access to a commercial loan to grow their businesses (Brownfields). The mainstreaming of gender and environmental issues across the various components would ensure inclusiveness. The programme targets a 50:50 male and female participation across the country aged 18 to 35 years.
The number of beneficiaries according to Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industries Department, AfDB, Chiji Ojukwu, will depend, in large part, upon the outcome of the agribusiness incubation placement and successful bankable proposals. In general, it is expected that all the youths that have successfully undergone the incubation programme and satisfied the relevant criteria, will move to the next stage of accessing the loans to set up their agribusinesses or may find employment with the private sector and the rural development community.
Most of the loans will be about $50,000 maximum per business. According to him, agripreneurs can have individual or joint businesses and these must be duly registered by Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The target is to reach 1,000 agripreneurs per state, who will establish enterprises, as individuals (about 2,000 for both green and brown fields) and as groups of 10 to 50 (creating about 5,500 businesses).
The businesses will generate about 185,000 additional jobs. Total direct jobs created by the programme would reach as much as 222,000.
The AfDB is not working alone on the ENABLE Youth Programme. The bank has IITA as core-partner. Following the AfDB's High-Level Conference on African Agricultural Transformation, which held in Dakar, Senegal, in October 2015, governments across the continent, international development partners, agri-business companies, finance institutions, youth and women's groups expressed interest in working with the bank in collaboration with the IITA, to develop and roll-out country-specific ENABLE youth programmes designed to sustainably tackle youth unemployment and promote food security.
Subsequently, the AfDB and the IITA held design workshop in Abuja last year to provide a well-grounded evidence-based understanding of the programme concept by sharing experiences and lessons learned in promoting youth entrepreneurship and employment in agriculture on the continent.
The workshop was attended by 240 participants from more than 30 countries, including over 70 young "agripreneurs", young men and women engaged in agriculture and agribusiness. It featured keynote speakers, including eight Ministers of Agriculture and Youth Employment; IITA Director-General, Nteranya Sanginga; Chief Operating Officer, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Abimbola Adebakin and Adviser, African Union Commission, Mark Kofi Fynn.
The young "agripreneurs" shared the inspiring stories of how they set up their agribusinesses, described some of the challenges they faced and gave clues to their success stories. This helped to fine-tune the ENABLE Youth programme designed by the incorporation of proven Africa-wide best practices.
The workshop established a general consensus that the ENABLE Youth programme was a powerful mechanism for boosting youth employment in agribusiness. This led to the establishment of the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum and Agri Pitch Competition.
According to the bank , there is a proliferation of incubation and accelerator initiatives across Africa in recent years.
However, there is currently no continent-wide forum/framework to connect the programmes. AYA Forum, therefore, intends to serve as platform for aggregating agripreneurs across Africa and escalating the impact of their activities.
The AYA Forum will comprise: the AYA Forum, a two-day Conference/Workshop with thematic discussions and presentation of success stories and Agri-Pitch Entrepreneurship Competition that will lead to a selection of three finalists for presentation at the Bank's annual meetings in India in May.
The side events include mentoring and incubator training programmes. The AYA Forum will also showcase the strength of collaboration and partnership with key institutions such as the IITA, African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN), CTA, and others.
The AfDB and its partners, IITA, AAIN and CTA are to launch the Agri- Pitch Entrepreneurship Competition as an agripreneurship challenge to identify innovative solutions for the sector in Africa. The expected outcome of the challenge is to select winning solutions that can lead to new products, programmes, projects and processes by young agripreneurs.
AYA Forum is scheduled for the IITA, Ibadan, between April 25 and 26.