he Fair's panellists all stressed the important role that youth play in agribusiness; they agreed that with the right investments and appropriate access to enterprise support, young people can drive the transformation of agriculture in Africa.
Alemayeu Konde Koira, head of the Youth Program at the Mastercard Foundation, argued that despite concerns about a disinterest in agriculture among youth, young people are committed to agriculture and motivated to innovate agribusinesses. "We need to help young people to understand that there are opportunities along the agricultural value chain, both upstream and downstream. They need to be provided with support, to have access to services such as savings, insurance and credit. Young people are looking to transform agriculture, so they need to be involved in discussions that affect them," he stated.
The African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN) seeks to provide this support to young people in the early stages of establishing an agribusiness with mentoring and access to structured financing mechanisms. Dr Alex Ariho, panellist and CEO of AAIN, stressed that, "It is important for us to create a new kind of leadership. Let's provide young people with a framework of support."
The panel also highlighted the potential of technology, emphasising that young entrepreneurs and start-ups working on innovations and ICT solutions connected to agriculture are essential to ensure an efficient agricultural sector, which can attract more young people in the future. Awa Caba, director of Sooretul – a Senegalese online marketplace for agricultural products produced and processed by women and winner of CTA's 2016 Pitch AgriHack competition – emphasised the transformative impact of ICTs on the agricultural sector with the example that, "The use of ICTs helps women gain access to agricultural markets and develop their market opportunities."
Tony Nsanganira, director of FAO's Youth Employment Programme moved the discussion onto partnerships, which he argued are essential to meet the challenges faced by young agricultural entrepreneurs and help them to develop their talents. "Dialogue between young people and decision makers is important... In terms of developing support mechanisms, young people need to be involved," he stated.
Full of hope and ideas, the Fair demonstrated that young, innovative and audacious entrepreneurs must be involved in defining the future of the agricultural sector. CTA focuses on ensuring that this is the case, as Director Michael Hailu explains, "We hope that the best start-ups will develop and eventually reach thousands of farmers and agribusinesses, and create employment opportunities for many young people."
Organisations involved in the youth fair: CTA, AfDB, MCF, IDG, FAO, AgriProfocus, GAAAP, AAIN, AWARD