African youth urged to tap into agriculture potential
Africa has the ability to produce enough food to feed its population and beyond, and develop agribusiness that would offer decent employment to youth. This observation was made by different pan-Africanists, calling for the development of the entire agriculture value chain.
They were speaking on Saturday, March 27 during Pan-African Movement (PAM) Youth Commission’s Fourth Africa Expects Youth Series webinar that was held under the theme “Youth as Key Drivers to Sustainable Food Security.”
They said that there is a need to make sound investment to develop agro-processing so as to add value to farm produce and effectively linking primary producers to industries.
About 250 million Africans are hungry – almost 20 percent of its 1.2 billion people – according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO).
Meanwhile, according to information from the World Bank, Africa’s agribusiness (food and beverage) market is projected to reach $1 trillion per year by 2030 from $313 billion in 2013.
AfCTA a relief
Brian Kagoro, Founder and Executive Director of UHAI Africa Group, a Pan African Governance, Leadership and Development consulting firm said that there is a huge market within Africa that is yet to be exploited, indicating that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should be a mechanism to enable and ease the intra-Africa trade bottlenecks.
Kagoro said that the difficulties in trading in Africa are because of the colonial model, arguing that Africa was activated and motivated never to look to itself for self-reliance and relevance.
“AfCFTA must really push us towards a mindset where we build regional value chains; build research and development; invest in locally, nationally and regionally relevant technology for agricultural transformation (i.e. affordable, user friendly and accessible and durable),” he said.
“We need to improve market intelligence information and standards; in some countries, the danger is posed by middlemen that exploit primary producers; infrastructure, transportation, storage and logistics are as key as access to risk capital/finance and mentorship and support,” he said.
Kagoro said that African businesspeople have been thinking that they cannot be successful without selling to Europe.
However, he pointed out that there are Africans such as Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote who became billionaires thanks to selling to Africa.
“This, he said, is a wake-up call in our thinking about the value of Africa in the agricultural value chain and also our consumption,” he said, encouraging intra-African trade and youth participation in developing agricultural value chain.
Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted global supply chains, he said that Africa should strengthen local food production and trade.
“If we have a third and a fourth wave, and Europe and China shut down [a year or year and half of shutdown], and we were not able to do any export, will you as a business survive? But most importantly, will you not be starving?” he challenged Africans.
Regis Umugiraneza, founder of Carl Group – a company engaged in nutritious sweet potato processing for products such as bread – said that Africa’s food industry can compete on the global stage if the continent joins force.
He said that Rwanda committed to making the youth the driver of agriculture development and food security by establishing and supporting a Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) in 2016, which currently has more than 12,000 members.
Now, he said, the Government is establishing the manufacturing facility to help the industry recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The requirements to get funding from such initiative include having $10 million for other manufacturers compared to only $100,000 for agro-processors. This shows how the Government of Rwanda is committed to promote and also to emphasize food security by reducing imports by increasing local production, but also increasing exports,” he said.
Quoting AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, Michael Shyaka Nyarwaya, the Commissioner for Youth at Pan-African Movement Rwanda Chapter said that the future billionaires of Africa will not be coming from the oil and gas sector, but from the agriculture, adding that food is critical and that is what Africa has a comparative advantage in.
Nyarwaya said that the Pan-African Movement Rwandan Chapter decided to choose the topic “Youth as Key Drivers to Sustainable Food Security” just because they know that “if we don’t have enough food in Africa, we will be having a big problem,” calling for efforts to ensure food security on the continent.
“We need an education system that ensures that we have young people who are agriculture professionals because we are heading to technology-led agriculture,” he said.