In Mali and Senegal, youth unemployment in rural areas is a key driver for urban migration and emigration to Europe. Low income, underutilisation of skills and low productivity are some of the problems that youth experience.
Yet, youth offer an innovative and dynamic workforce, demonstrating a high uptake of modern technology and the ability to take on significant levels of risk. To help overcome the challenges youth face in rural areas and to encourage them to remain in their home countries, the Promoting youth entrepreneurship and job creation in the West African rice value chain (PEJERIZ) project is promoting youth entrepreneurship through agribusiness. More specifically, the project aims to expand sustainable entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for rural youths by actively engaging them in the improvement of rice value chains.
Rice has become the largest source of food calories in the region, with consumption increasing rapidly due to population growth, urbanisation and changes in eating habits. The rice value chain also offers huge job opportunities for rural youths. To capitalise on this potential, the PEJERIZ project will build and strengthen entrepreneurial capacities; create market linkages; and promote value-adding activities for rural youth in the rice value chains of Mali and Senegal. It is expected that the capacity building efforts undertaken in the project will develop a pool of young professionals with the competence and skills to engage in sustainable business along the rice value chain.
The project has three main components:
1. Capacity strengthening and empowerment of rural youth
- Rural youths, their groups, associations and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will be mapped out for both countries.
- Together with a targeted social media campaign, a series of awareness-raising events on rice business opportunities will be organised.
- More than 300 individual youths will be trained directly in entrepreneurship, business management, technical skills related to rice businesses and ICT4Rice.
2. Development of MSMEs and linkages to markets
- A call for rice business proposals will be sent to youth-led MSMEs who will provide and submit innovative and competitive business service ideas to benefit the rice value chain.
- 80 promising proposals (40 per country) will be screened, and selected, incubated and accelerated.
- Partnerships with technical and financial institutions will be developed for selected MSMEs to improve their access to financial support and to the markets.
- Small grants including matching grants will be provided to selected MSMEs to support their start-up phase and cover a range of specific technical assistance services - legal, patent, IPR, etc.
3. Project management and coordination
- Clear guidelines will be developed for the call for rice business proposals.
- A baseline study will be carried out re the key outcome indicators of the project.
- A detailed knowledge management and monitoring & evaluation system will be put in place, as well as a scaling up and resource mobilisation strategy.
- A capitalisation/lessons learned workshop will be organised at the end of the project to produce and publish impact stories.
The PEJERIZ project is expected to increase employment for rural youths in innovative rice development business models (including ICT-based models) along the value chain. The performance and competitiveness of local rice businesses are also expected to improve significantly thanks to innovative services provided by the youth-led MSMEs along the chain, and thus, enhance incomes for smallholder rice farmers and entrepreneurs.