Young people: making the most of the opportunities in agriculture

Creating Jobs and Promoting Entrepreneurship: Towards Food Security in the 21st Century

Young people have aspirations and high expectations for their future – this was a central theme of panel discussions on ‘Creating Jobs and Promoting Entrepreneurship: Towards Food Security in the 21st Century,’ co-organised by CTA on Wednesday 6th September 2017, at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Abidjan.

It is a virtuous circle, panellist agreed; not only does agricultural development create jobs, but young people have the energy and dynamism to become excellent entrepreneurs, and this is exactly what African agriculture needs in order to develop.

Helping young people to have a passion for agriculture

Setting out the goal of discussions, Mamadou Cissokho, a Senegalese farmer from Bamba-thialene, Koumpentoum said, "Let us work to ensure that young people live well in their environment! It is a problem of income and conditions; we need to create supportive environments for young people." To help realise this aim, there are two types of investment: direct investment in agriculture, which creates jobs, and indirect investment in nutrition.

Access to finance is recognised as a challenge, an obstacle to the private initiatives among young people, preventing them from realising their potential, said Coulibaly Alima, president of the Agribusiness Association of Côte d'Ivoire. "We need subsidies for young people starting out, for young entrepreneurs, small processors and agribusinesses to buy equipment and machines, and to be able to mechanise their activities," she added.

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Skills as a catalyst for employment

"However, there are not only difficulties, there are thousands of opportunities," emphasised Dr Mima S. Nedelcovych, president of the Initiative for Global Development. These opportunities emerge from training, stated Isolina Boto, Manager of CTA's office in Brussels. "Skills are the catalyst for jobs," she explained.

"You have to learn from your mistakes on a continental scale. Academic training must be linked to businesses so that they can train young people. We need job incubators at university level in order to link training to enterprise," stressed Nedelcovych.

The aim is to support young people, to coach them, network them and entrust them to mentors. "We must advocate for access to finance and assist them with management," added Boto. According to Sambou Coly, director of Mastercard's Financial Inclusion Programme, it is also important to implement targeted and attractive training programmes, to teach skills in ICTs and how to start a business.

And it is critical to keep in mind the value of networking: "We are organising ourselves so that young entrepreneurs can talk among themselves and share their experiences," said Isolina Boto.

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