We believe that in the context of the population growth, youth employment will be critical in the next decades, in particular in Africa.
While many challenges exist, we believe that new opportunities can also be leveraged.
For example, the growing urbanisation and the changing consumption patterns and diets create demand for fresh and processed foods which could offer new opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs across the value chain and for local and regional markets.
Smart farming tools and ICTs could also attract youth entrepreneurs in farming and related sectors.
Almost 88% of the world's 1.2 billion youth live in developing countries. Globally, young people account for approximately 24% of the working poor and this dynamic is particularly pronounced in Africa, where over 70% of youth subsist on US$2 per day or less. Although the world's youth population is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young women and men remain limited – particularly for those living in economically stagnant rural areas of developing countries. Projections indicate that 60% of the world's labour force growth between 2010 and 2050 will be in Africa which has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million aged between 15 and 24 (doubling by 2045 according to the AFDB).
In Africa, agriculture is still in most cases the sector which can absorb large numbers of new job seekers and offer meaningful work with public and private benefits. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the transition into agriculture begins early. The vast majority of teenagers who work are working in agriculture. At age 15, of the 60% of those who are working, almost 90% are working in agriculture. The share working outside agriculture increases steadily with age, largely because young people who leave school at higher grades enter other sectors. In rural areas, where limited educational opportunities prevent youths from staying in school for very long, agriculture employs more than 90% of 15- and 16-year-olds, and about 80% of young people ages 24 and older remain in agriculture (although some who report agriculture as their primary activity also have a non-farm activity as well). Women who work are more likely to work in agriculture than men—and unlike men, their probability of working in agriculture does not decrease much with age. One reason why so many women remain in agriculture is that they leave school sooner, so employment opportunities are set much earlier for females than for males.
The creation of employment opportunities for young people is among the major development challenges of our time. Changing the vision of youth towards agriculture must happen. In this context, youth-related policies and programmes should seek to identify specific, priority interventions that add value. Policy makers should see the value of investing in empowering youth to strengthen and sustain the foundation for agricultural transformation. Creating more and better jobs, in particular for the growing young rural labour force, should be an explicit objective of agriculture and rural development programmes and youth-focused policies and investments in agriculture and rural development should be a priority. Boosting incentives to improve the quality of education will also be key to produce a skilled workforce. We need to increase the understanding of the specific needs of young people, improving the capacity of youth to profitably engage in activities along the agricultural value chain and improve access to markets and finance. As youth are often marginalised in these processes, platforms and mechanisms for their engagement need to be put into place to enable them to fully participate in the policy dialogue, make their voice heard and give recognition to their status.