THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has deepened agriculture with an initial investment of $774 million in six countries in Africa to ignite economic growth and make agriculture an attractive investment.
Chiji Ojukwu, director of agriculture and agro-industry department at the AfDB, said says the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Programme, part of its Feed Africa initiative, is making steady progress in changing the way agriculture is perceived – from a traditional way of life, to a lucrative investment.
Through the ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) Youth Programme, which aims to produce some 300,000 agribusinesses and create jobs for 1.5 million youth in just five years, the Bank has set itself an ambitious target of nurturing a young pool of future agricultural millionaires in order to solve Africa’s population growth challenge.
The Bank estimates 100 million young Africans would be entering the job market within 10 years. Bank estimates show a substantial number of the youth currently live in rural areas, where demand for new labourers could continue to absorb the new job-market entrants.
To respond to the job-creation challenge, the Bank’s Jobs for Youth Strategy lays emphasis on a series of key agricultural sector reforms, aiming to make land more readily available. It also focuses its approach on improving the capacity of local farmers and producers and creating an enabling field for food processing.
AfDB’s chief financial economist and the co-ordinator of the ENABLE Youth Programme, Edson Mpyisi, said battling a mindset change and beginning to view agriculture as a serious field, much different from holding the hoe, but building an industrial chain, still remains a challenge to overcome.
According to Lilian Uwintwali, CEO at M-AHWI Tech, a Rwandan youth in agricultural technology firm, the perception of the youth towards agriculture remains traditional and the private-sector players continue to perceive agriculture as less lucrative.
‘For business to thrive, it has to be money-making, there is need for markets and stakeholder cooperation is important. I work with 10,000 farmers, but many still lack information on which banks they can lend from,’ Uwintwali said during the 7th African Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan at a session on Youth Agripreneurs.
The African Development Bank hosted the side event at its headquarters. In a packed auditorium, young innovators were keen to discuss ‘Agripreneurship, Enterprise Development and Access to Finance’ with more emphasis on creating descent jobs, building job-placement agencies and building business management skills in Africa’s value chains.
At least 30 African countries have submitted requests for AfDB funding towards various projects aiming to improve the business environment for the youth involved in the information technology sector, large-scale agricultural production and infrastructure development to spur the agriculture sector.
The Bank is billing its value chain approach in six key areas, with a target of $15bn to support businesses owned by the youth and women. It wants to invest in some 31 countries to create the 1.5 million jobs and employ some 10,000 unemployed graduates, half of them women.
Mpyisi said the key approaches to the programme include initiating dialogue on the development of key skills, services and the training of the agriculture entrepreneurs as well as linking commercial banks with the youth in need of financial resources to enable the youth to access loans at reduced interest rates.