The 40 per cent of Africa’s population comprising young people in the 18-35 age bracket holds the key to the continent’s food security and economic progress.
Their potential, however, needs to be harnessed through innovative technologies. Unfortunately, the reality is that many youths are jobless, with limited opportunities to transform their lives. One area where we are yet to fully exploit the potential of youth is agriculture.
We should get our youth intricately involved in the food value chain and completely revamp the current agricultural model to make it more youth-inclusive.
We need to debunk retrogressive stereotypes that dissuade the younger generation from embracing agriculture as a dignified career option.
For far too long, young people have perceived agriculture as a retirement pastime. Such stereotypes not only stifle growth and innovation in the agri-food sector but also dim the overall perception of agriculture.
The youth must shun the mindset that agriculture is a boring venture. One of the ways through which the youth can be engaged in transforming the agri-food space is through innovation.
The disruptive impact of technology is evident in virtually every sector and facet of life. While agriculture initially lagged in embracing innovative technologies, it has not been immune to the disruption.
Indeed, some of the most radical innovations have been around food systems. From food security apps to weather and calorie apps, technology has mainstreamed the agri-value chain while neutralising entrenched stereotypes.
Through technology, farmers can now access markets directly, influence prices and learn better crop and animal husbandry practices. On the same platforms, they can showcase their produce, processes, and other activities along the agri-value chain.
Mentoring next generation
We must begin to envision the role of the youth in shaping the future of agriculture by mentoring the next generation of agripreneurs.
The emerging, tech-driven agri-space is gender and age neutral and devoid of biases that fuel the exclusion of youth, women and other disadvantaged groups.
In addition, the quest for a new breed of agripreneurs and innovators has spawned many initiatives that seek to stimulate creativity in pursuit of opportunities in the trillion-dollar Africa agro-value chain.
One such initiative is the GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize and the Pitch AgriHack competition, whose aim is to showcase youth’s ground-breaking solutions to Africa’s food security challenges.
The disruption that tech and youth are injecting is the Midas touch the industry needs to transition to the next level. Crucially, youth have a higher risk appetite, which is needed to overcome challenges facing the industry.
Individually and collectively, this youthful effect will affect what we know, drive trends that influence what and how we eat, what we farm, where we farm, and generally influence what the market will produce and consume in future.
Ms Namayi is the GoGettaz Lead – Generation Africa at AGRA; [email protected]