Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, was once asked what sectors he would invest in if he were 21 years again and he said information and communication technology and agriculture.
But why would a man endowed with huge financial muscles think of investing in agriculture, a field most youth perceive as an ‘employer of the last resort’?
In making the conclusion, at the back of Dangote’s mind was the fact that the world population is growing fast, and so is demand for food. A lot of food producers in Africa are ageing, which means the youth have to come on board and play a big role in producing food. There is immense potential in the sector, from farming and providing innovative solutions to farmers through technology to value addition.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that there are 1.2 billion youth in the world, a massive 88 per cent are in developing countries and 75 million are unemployed.
In Nigeria, a good chunk of the youthful population in the labour market is learned, having graduated from tertiary colleges and other institutions of higher learning. However, there are few formal jobs, so a majority are jobless. The agriculture sector presents a large reservoir of untapped agribusiness frontiers and decent job opportunities for the young.
The sector if well tapped would create decent jobs for the youth especially in rural areas and increase food production, thereby contributing to effectively achieving SDG1 (no poverty) and SDG 2 (zero hunger) by 2030.
Provide an Enabling Environment
Barriers to agricultural advancement among the youth and women are identified as lack of access to land, financial services, markets and knowledge, information and education.
These barriers can be removed through government help and engagement with development partners, who can offer opportunities for workshops, trainings, volunteer-ship contracts and networking.
There’s no doubt that the current crop of youth is learned and, therefore, a useful resource that Africa has. Many business incubator centres exist that provide an enabling environment for start-ups and individuals to commercialize ideas — the youth need to look out for them.
Each year, there are calls for funding by donor agencies and foreign embassies to support agricultural ventures. As a young person, why not create or join community-based initiatives or social enterprises and apply for the funds? Of course, no donor would want to invest in a sole proprietorship business unless under very special terms.
The calls by donors are meant for anyone as long as you demonstrate a reasonable case on societal impact on agriculture along thematic areas related to poverty reduction, food security, post-harvest losses and climate change adaptation and technological greening of agricultural value chains, among others.
Agriculture is a vast field and there exist myriad opportunities along fresh farm produce, farm input supply chains, products value addition and food agri-enterprises. It also has a big room to accommodate ICT, innovation and technologies that seek to enhance or revolutionise the sector.
Far-reaching, long-impact investments start small and grow. Identify a few nodes along the sector that particularly interest you and start. Successful businesses and innovations are built on people’s skills, don’t wait to have enough money to start.
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