Drones, apps, reality shows, showcasing agricultural entrepreneurship: Africa is currently engaged in the battle to make agriculture attractive to young people.
Although employing 65% of the population and contributing to 36% of GDP, it is clear that the sector is no longer able to “attract” youth. One of the main explanations is the migratory phenomenon as explained by José Graziano da Silva, the Director General of FAO (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization): “The phenomena of migration, towards urban areas and abroad, may deprive African countries of the young labor force needed to modernize their agricultural sector as an essential step towards stimulating growth and prosperity. ”
The Director General of FAO said that economic growth in many African countries has slowed in recent years and that the effects of extreme weather events are intensifying, while conflicts continue to cause social disruption in some areas.
The challenge of competitiveness
In reality, the migration crisis is only the revealing of a more delicate problem: the lack of competitiveness of African agriculture. A serious handicap when it comes to promoting employment in this sector. The African Union and the African Development Bank – which has set up a $ 250,000 fund for young agricultural entrepreneurs – have made it their hobby horse. These institutions regularly call on African states to look at the Chinese, Brazilian or Indian models, because in these countries, government and the private sector are one. FAO subscribes to this same approach. “It is essential that African countries realize the potential of rural areas for agro-industrialization and to create more job opportunities for young people and encourage them to stay in small villages in rural areas,” he said. he pointed out referring to a recent report from the world organization. This challenge is all the more complex because, in the coming decades, sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is expected to face a large increase in its rural youth population. Among these young people, several profiles stand out. There are those whose parents are already farmers, others who leave the rural world, with round trips, to earn additional income for the family. Indeed, many families are pushing their children to do something else than farming, which remains largely traditional, subsistence and weather-dependent. Farmer education and training levels are also mostly low.
Focus on rural areas
To prepare for agro-industrialization, it is necessary to urbanize rural areas, according to FAO. This involves providing small villages with basic services such as education, health, electricity and Internet access, which, according to Graziano da Silva, is “one of the main attractions for young people from These days “. “Small villages should be the place where farmers buy seeds, send their children to school, and seek medical care and other services. In Africa, it is very important to revitalize small villages through small agro-industries and family farmers’ cooperatives, “he said.
To support this vision, FAO is advising more infrastructure investments to connect producers, processors and other segments of food value chains. This includes roads, transport, storage capacity, energy and water management. These measures are essential to create employment opportunities not only in agricultural production, but especially in various non-agricultural activities such as the provision of services in general, and rural tourism in particular, said the Director General of FAO. Graziano da Silva added that the private sector is a key partner, especially for building the infrastructure needed for economic growth and development. He pointed out that FAO has established more than 150 strategic partnerships with non-state actors, 50% of which are with private sector companies.
In its relations with the private sector, FAO mobilized knowledge, technical expertise, political support, in-kind donations and other resources, mainly to support the poorest countries and communities.