A few days ago, something major happened in Kigali Rwanda. More than 300 global and African thought leaders and youth agripreneurs (yes Agripreneurs!) came together for The MasterCard Foundation’s second Young Africa Works Summit. Another 50 young but enthusiastic Africans from different parts of the continent also joined this congregation to generate relevant ideas and solutions.
This being the continent with the youngest population and yet faced with employment challenges, the summit sought to look into the issues that need to ironed out in order to ensure that young people not only take charge of feeding the continent but also do so in a meaningful and profitable way.
“Africa is home to the world’s youngest population with enormous potential to improve agricultural productivity and make the sector a viable source of employment for youth across the continent,” says Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion and Youth Livelihoods, The MasterCard Foundation. Highlighting the contributions being made by young people to turn around what is largely a sector of subsistence farming to a competitive, modern and sustainable one was one of the key goals of the summit.
The continent not only has a challenge to feed a bulging population, it also urgently needs to address the fact that 11 million young people enter the job market annually. A market that is often not keen at embracing them either for sheer lack of opportunities or the absence of skills required. Young people are therefore finding themselves in the middle of efforts to modernise agriculture through innovative technologies and production systems.
These interventions can no longer wait now that the threat of climate change is now a reality. The youth are the ones heading for a painful future if nothing is done to change the situation for better. Stress on water resources and food security is no longer a myth but a worrying reality that compromises the actual security of communities.
It is projected that by 2020, the agricultural sector will create eight million jobs by 2020 even though it is already y far the largest source of employment in Africa. The sector offers tremendous prospects for creating sustainable livelihoods for young people and speeding up their prosperity as well as that of their societies.
“Agricultural transformation is a clarion call for us, the youth of Africa,” says Pilirani Khoza, Founder of Bunda Female Students Organisation at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“For decades, agriculture has continued to operate using the same static methods and technologies adopted by our forefathers. We must adopt the new technologies that are available to us. Youth are technological doers and thinkers, they are energetic and hungry for knowledge and they should be actively involved in transforming Africa.”
Jean Bosco Nzeyimana moved the audience with his inspiring story on how he created a solution to the dependence on firewood which places a lot of pressure on the environment as trees are seen only as fuel for cooking. He started a company called Habona Ltd. that collects organic waste and turns into briquettes, biogas and fertilizer. Talk of putting waste to use in more than one way. His efforts also seek to replace inorganic fertilizers with organic fertilizer that keeps the soil fertile in a more natural way.
Jean Bosco hopes that young people can embrace agriculture instead of always dreaming of white collar jobs.
I hope to make it a platform for building a community of like-minded people, so we can eventually create a network where we can share ideas and exchange best practices.
During the 2016 Rwanda National Dialogue Day, an old man stood and solemnly affirmed that “No farmer, no food, no future”. I believe that young people must have the same mentality and take the lead in securing our future through farming.
From the summit it was obvious that the key message on day one was that young Africans have to wake up to the reality that the transformation of the agricultural sector is not their burden but their responsibility and opportunity. It is a revolution only them can deliver.
About The MasterCard Foundation
The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skill straining, and financial services for people living in poverty , primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world.
About The MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Livelihoods Program
The Youth Livelihoods Program seeks to improve the capacity of young men and women to transition to jobs or create businesses through a holistic approach which combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, and appropriate financial services. Through our partnerships, our program is supporting innovative models that help young people transition out of poverty and into stable livelihoods. Since 2010, the foundation has committed $402 million to 37 multi-year projects across 19 countries in Africa.. More than 1.8 million young people have been reached through the Youth Livelihoods Program.