About 20 African countries have thrown their weight behind the IITA Youth Agripreneur (IYA) initiative—a pilot scheme that is engaging youths in agriculture with clear signals of ending youth unemployment in the continent. The initiative has also been endorsed by the IITA Board of Trustees, according to Dr Namanga Ngongi, IITA Board member.
IYA changes the mindset of young people towards agriculture and equips them with various opportunities in the production and marketing of agricultural products, cutting across value chains such as cassava, banana/plantain, soybean, maize, vegetables, livestock, and fish production.
The countries supported the IYA initiative in a communiqué at the end of a conceptualization workshop on Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa that was held at IITA in Ibadan, Nigeria, from 28 to 30 May 2014.
About 200 participants reviewed the current unemployment situation in the continent, and noted that youth unemployment and underemployment are high, with over 70% of the population between 15 and 24 years in many countries under-/unemployed, if not outright unemployed.
The countries noted that the present situation threatens not only food security but also the national security of all African countries, and may compromise the attainment of the targets set under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
- Recognizing that agriculture can drive development and has the potential to create millions of decent jobs for Africa’s male and female youth in the provision of products and services such as seed and input supply, crop aggregation and marketing, postharvest handling, processing and storage, and other value-addition activities.
- Recognizing that the youth population in Africa could play a pivotal role in the dissemination of improved technologies and innovations to farmers which have the capacity of closing yield gaps and enhancing productivity in the continent.
- Recognizing that the youth can advance agribusiness development in Africa with adequate support services, the countries with development partners proposed a multinational youth-in-agriculture/agribusiness program drawing on the IITA Youth Agripreneur model and other proven models that would focus on youth empowerment in agribusinesses and related enterprises across Africa.
The proposal has, in principle, been endorsed by donors, led by the African Development Bank.
The countries commended the African Development Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa for supporting agricultural development initiatives in Africa, and IITA for hosting the conception workshop.